Updated: December 12, 2017 9:11:12 pm
Blazing guns fell silent as the campaigning for the second phase of high-stakes Gujarat assembly elections came to an end Tuesday evening. The final phase will see 93 assembly seats spread across 14 districts in north and central Gujarat going to polls on December 14.
A total of 851 candidates are in the fray for the second phase, while 2.22 crore people are eligible to exercise their franchise. The first phase of voting for the 182-member house was held on December 9 and covered 89 seats. The results will be declared on December 18.
In the 2012 assembly polls, the BJP had bagged 115 seats, while the Congress won 61.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi championed the cause of the ruling BJP during the campaigning, the Congress’ charge was spearheaded by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Besides, top leaders from both parties criss-crossed the regions and addressed a number of rallies where they pulled out all stops to woo the voters.
The campaigning witnessed an acrimonious war of words between the BJP and the Congress, with PM Modi setting off a political storm when he alleged Pakistan’s hand in the Gujarat elections. Addressing a rally in Palanpur, Modi claimed a “secret meeting” took place at suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s home in Delhi and was attended by some Pakistani dignitaries, a former vice-president and former prime minister Manmohan Singh.
Modi also claimed that the meeting happened a day before Aiyar called him “neech” (lowly sort of person).
In a strong rebuttal, Manmohan Singh subsequently launched a blistering attack on his successor in an uncharacteristic fashion, accusing Modi of spreading “falsehoods” and “canards” fearing “imminent defeat” in Gujarat. Singh also remarked PM Modi is setting a dangerous precedent by his “insatiable desire” to “tarnish” every Constitutional office.
As the campaigning was nearing its end, issues pertaining to caste and religion gained prominence instead of “Vikas” (development).
While Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah targeted the Congress on issues like Ram Temple and alleged Pakistani interference in the polls, Gandhi trod cautiously as he tenaciously slammed Modi and the BJP for “not talking about the future of Gujarat” and ignoring key issues being faced by the people of the state. He also accused the Modi regime of working for only a handful of industrialists.
The election is being viewed as a prestige battle for Modi in his home turf, where a reinvigorated Congress has stitched up a broad social alliance with prominent Patidar, OBC, and Dalit leaders in its bid to wrest the state from the BJP, which has been in power for the last 22 years.
The Patidar community, accounting for around 12 percent of the state’s population, could prove to be the ‘X factor’ in the polls, in which quota agitation leader Hardik Patel pledged support to the Congress and appealed to people to “uproot the BJP” this time.
The last day of campaigning witnessed both Modi and Gandhi visiting temples. While Gandhi paid a visit to the famous Lord Jagannath Temple in Ahmedabad, Modi took a seaplane ride from the Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad to Dharoi Dam in north Gujarat and returned after offering prayers at the famous Ambaji Temple.
With PTI inputs
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