A total of 93 seats from the north and central Gujarat regions will go to the polls on Monday, which will mark the second and final phase of the state Assembly elections. These regions comprise belts with high concentration of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), tribals and Dalits besides some Patidar-dominated areas.
These seats are spread across 14 districts of Gujarat, which include six seats reserved for the Scheduled Caste (SC) communities and 13 for the Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities. They account for altogether 2.51 crore voters, even as 833 candidates, including 764 males and 69 females, are in the fray.
In the Gujarat elections this time, the incumbent BJP is also facing a challenge from Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) besides the principal Opposition Congress. The counting of votes will take place on December 8.
The Bapunagar constituency in Ahmedabad city has the maximum number of 29 candidates, while the Idar seat in the Sabarkantha district has only three contestants.
In terms of the number of voters, Bapunagar and Ghatlodia are the smallest and biggest constituencies, respectively.
In terms of areas covered by the second-phase seats, Ahmedabad city’s Dariapur is the smallest seat whereas Patan district’s Radhanpur is the largest constituency.
In the second phase in the 2017 Assembly elections, the BJP had bagged 51 seats, with 39 won by the Congress and three by the Independents.
The prominent candidates in the fray this time include Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel (Ghatlodia), Patidar youth leader Hardik Patel (Viramgam), OBC leader Alpesh Thakor (Gandhinagar South), Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani (Vadgam), former minister Shankar Chaudhary (Tharad), Congress MLA Geniben Thakor (Vav), health minister Rushikesh Patel (Visnagar) and tribal leader Ashwin Kotwal (Khedbrahma), among others.
Some rebels from the BJP like Dhavalsinh Zala (Bayad), Madhu Shrivastav (Waghodia), Dinesh Patel (Padra), Mavji Desai (Dhanera) are contesting in this phase of the elections as Independents.
In central Gujarat, some notable contestants are sitting ministers Manisha Vakil (Vadodara city), Nimisha Suthar (Morva Hadaf) and Kuber Dindor (Santrampur), Leader of Opposition Sukhram Rathva (Pavi-Jetpur), Yogesh Patel (Manjalpur), veteran ex-Congress tribal leader Mohansinh Rathvas’s son Rajendrasinh who has joined the BJP, Ketan Inamdar (Savli), Jetha Ahir (Shehra), C K Raulji (Godhra), Pankaj Desai (Nadiad) and Amit Chavda (Anklav).
The electoral politics in north and central Gujarat regions are influenced, among other factors, by the well-entrenched dairy co-operatives, especially in Sabakantha, Banaskantha, Mehsana, Anand, Panchmahal and Kheda districts.
The polling will take place at 26409 polling booths across the state. Some prominent leaders who would cast their votes on Monday include Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, CM Patel, Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) president Jagdish Thakor and ex-Deputy CM Nitin Patel. PM Modi is then scheduled to cast his vote in Ranip area at 8.30 am, Amit Shah in Naranpura area at 10.30 am and the CM in Shilaj at 10 am.
In the elections’ first phase held on December 1, voting took place for 89 seats, which saw a 63.3 per cent voter turnout. In view of apathy displayed by voters in urban seats, the Election Commission (EC) issued an appeal to urban voters to come out and vote in the second phase. In 2017, the voter turnout in the first phase was recorded at 68 per cent.