Ahmedabad: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president Amit Shah has set his party a target of 150 seats in the forthcoming Gujarat assembly elections. Ask any BJP worker, however big or small, and he or she will parrot the figure.

Has the BJP president set an achievable target or is he building castles in the air? Before exploring the answer, let’s look at the results of the last three assembly elections.

In 2002, just 10 months after the Godhra train burning incident and the gruesome carnage that followed, Narendra Modi sought the people’s mandate to rule the state for a full five-year term. Modi had replaced Keshubhai Patel three years into the latter’s tenure, but had resigned before the end of the government’s term following accusations that he not done enough to prevent the riots in Gujarat earlier that year.

The BJP won 127 seats that year, but the Hindu-Muslim divide in the aftermath of the violence failed to drive the party past the 149-seat mark the Congress recorded while reaping the benefits of KHAM—Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim—in 1985.

In the 2007 elections, Modi was projected as a ‘Hindu hriday samrat’, an image built over a series of encounter killings by D.G. Vanzara and his Anti-Terrorist Squad. The BJP’s tally, however, five years after the Godhra violence, instead of going up, came down to 116.

By the time the 2012 assembly polls came by, the chief minister had donned the garb of ‘vikas purush’ and had coined the ‘Gujarat model’ of development, showcasing this at his biennial Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit.

While India’s business tycoons shared the platform at Vibrant Gujarat and declared Modi the ideal candidate for the post of prime minister, the BJP won just 115 seats that December—one less than its previous tally.

Moreover, the gap between the BJP and Congress in the share of the popular vote fell to 8.92 percentage points—it had been 11.12 in the previous elections and 10.57 in 2002, according to data from the Election Commission of India. And the BJP candidates scraped through by a margin of less than 5,000 votes in as many as 14 constituencies and by less than 10,000 in a further 40.

The 2012 polls laid bare the urban-rural divide. While the BJP won an overwhelming number of seats in the predominantly urban Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Vadodara ad Surat districts, the Congress fared better in the rural hubs of north and central Gujarat.

In Ahmedabad district, Anandiben Patel, who would take over as chief minister when Modi was elevated to the Centre and then the No.2 in the state government, won the Ghatlodiya seat by a whopping 1.1 lakh votes more than her Congress rival. The party also took victory by wide margins in the Maninagar (Modi, by 86,000 votes), Ellisbridge (Rakesh Shah, 76,000) and Naranpura (Amit Shah, 63,000) constituencies.

But the most significant impact of this divide was seen in the elections to district and taluka panchayats and local self-government bodies in December 2015. While the ruling party took all six municipal corporations, the opposition Congress won 24 of the 31 district panchayats (with 3.88 percentage points more of the votes polled than the BJP) and 134 of 230 taluka panchayats (3.68 percentage points ahead). This sharp increase in the Congress’s vote share signified a major shift away from the BJP.

The 2014 Lok Sabha elections, in which the BJP won all 26 parliamentary constituency seats in Gujarat, could be considered an aberration and could be explained as the people of Gujarat wanting their son of the soil to become prime minister, only the second to hold the coveted position after Morarji Desai.

So, has Amit Shah set an achievable target or is he building castles in the air? The answer seems fairly evident.

Nachiketa Desai is a senior journalist based in Ahmedabad and tweets at @nachiketadesai. The views expressed are his own.

Did you like this story? Then follow us on Facebook and Twitter.