On test in Gujarat: From Modi again spearheading BJP campaign to faceless Cong bid to challenger Kejriwal
The 2022 Gujarat Assembly election has been defined by the high-voltage, sustained campaign of the ruling BJP and the new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), that began with their respective principal leaders engaging with the electorate nearly eight months prior to the polls, and the perceived absence of such a campaign by the principal Opposition Congress, which indicated the stakes placed by these parties on this election.
With the stage set for second and final phase of voting on December 5, for the BJP the Gujarat polls would be a bellwether for the Assembly elections in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in 2023 leading up to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, says a senior party leader.
The cash-rich milk cooperatives in Gujarat are likely to have a significant bearing on nearly 50 per cent of the 93 seats bound for the second phase of the state Assembly polls on December 5. These co-operatives, earlier run by functionaries aligned with the Congress, are now controlled by leaders affiliated to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Banas Dairy in Banaskantha district, which is the biggest milk co-operative in Gujarat, and four other top co-operative dairies — in Mehsana, Anand, Sabarkantha and Panchmahal districts — together account for 75 per cent of the total 280 lakh litres of milk procured daily by the GCMMF.
Observing that urban voter “apathy” continues across the country, as evidenced from Shimla to Surat, the two states that went to the Assembly polls in this round, the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday appealed voters of Gujarat to come out in large numbers in the second phase of polling on Monday to compensate for low voting in the first phase.
The ECI’s appeal came in the wake of low turnout in urban constituencies of 89 seats that voted in the first phase on Thursday — 93 constituencies will vote in the second phase on Monday.
The small, nondescript town of Unjha in Mehsana district of north Gujarat, sitting at the centre of the eponymous Assembly constituency, is popularly known as the spice capital of Asia. A bastion of the BJP for decades, it had turned into a problem spot for the saffron party in the 2017 Assembly polls, as it was one of the hot spots of the Hardik Patel-led Patidar quota agitation of 2015.
This time, with the pendulum seemingly swinging back towards the BJP, the constituency is set to witness a three-pronged battle in the ongoing Gujarat Assembly elections, with the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) into what has thus far been a straight battle between traditional rivals the Congress and the BJP.
The campaign for the second phase drew to a close on Saturday evening at 5 pm. BJP chief CR Patil on Sunday said that the party will break all the previous records in the Assembly polls to retain power. On the other hand, Gujarat Congress in-charge Raghu Sharma cited the “pattern” of the December 1 first phase voting to claim it will form the next government.