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3:16 pm - Tuesday January 21, 9062

Battleground Gujarat : First phase of polling begins


The first phase of polling to 89 assembly segments out of total 182-member Gujarat
legislature got underway across politically crucial Saurashtra, South Gujarat and Kutch regions a short while ago.

The polling that began around 0800 hours amid tight security will continue till 1700 hours, poll officials
said here.

A total of 977 candidates including 57 women are in fray from around 50 political parties. There are also a large number of Independents.Polling will take place across over 24,600 polling stations.

All eyes will be on politically sensitive Rajkot West, where Chief Minister Vijay Rupani is pitted against Congress leader Indranil Rajyaguru. Polls are being held spread over districts like Rajkot, Surat, Junagadh, Amreli, Morbi, Kutch, Jamnagar and Surendranagar.

Elections to remaining 93 seats will be held on December 14 while counting of votes will take place on December 18.

A high-decibel campaign that saw both BJP and Congress slamming each other ended on Thursday evening – where in at the last moment emotion ran high after Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to a controversial remarks from senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar.

In more ways than one, elections in Gujarat – which is Prime Minister’s home state and where BJP has remained in power since mid-nineties – is being considered crucial for national polity as it would be kind of an acid test to Mr Modi’s popularity especially in the context of traders’ anguish against GST and noteban.

The elections in Gujarat this year also coincides with internal development in Congress party as the stage is set for Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as new Congress chief replacing his mother Sonia Gandhi.

During the campaign, while Mr Modi addressed at least 15 election rallies and interacted with BJP women workers, leading the Congress charge Rahul Gandhi visited number of temples including the historic Somnath Temple.

The BJP has fielded candidates in all 89 seats, Congress 87 and there are 443 Independent candidates. Among other parties — AAP has fielded 21, Shankersinh Vaghela-led Jan Vikalp Party has candidates in 48 segments while Mayawati-led BSP has nominated 64 candidates.

Samajwadi Party has nominated 4, JD(U) 14, NCP 30 and 25 candidates from BJP-ally Shiv Sena will be also in the fray.The second phase of polling will take place on December 14.

In 2012 – five years back – out of 89 seats for which polls are being held on Saturday, the BJP had virtually swept picking up as many as 63 seats — by bagging 5 in Kutch, 28 in South Gujarat and 30 in Saurashatra belt.

It would not be all cakewalk for BJP as this year’s elections have been marred by intense debate on Patidars’ reservation and there have been also caste arithmetic involving the likes of Hardik Patel; Alpesh Thakor (OBC) and Jignesh Mevani (Dalit).

Posted in: Nation

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