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Press Trust Of India
Ahmedabad, December 03, 2012
Youth and “neo middle-class” will be central to Narendra Modi’s gameplan as he looks to return as the Gujarat chief minister for the record third consecutive term. Urban housing for low-income groups, jobs for more than three million youth and education schemes with special emphasis on skill development will be his vote-catchers.

The state goes to the polls on December 13 and 17. The result will be out on December 20. Read the Sankalp Patra

Releasing the BJP manifesto on Monday, Modi promised five million houses to the “neo middle-class” — those who have beaten poverty but still need government’s help to stay afloat.

In a rapidly urbanising Gujarat, where about 42% of the population lives in urban areas, it is a fetching proposal that also aims to neutralise a similar pledge made by the Congress in September.

The BJP manifesto “has been copied from Gujarat Congress' 12-points Gujarat development declaration…” said the Congress, describing Modi as a copycat.

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The opposition is doing its bit to deny Modi, who is contesting from Maninagar segment. Keshubhai Patel's Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) Monday withdrew its candidate in support of Congress's Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt. Shweta had Sunday urged all parties to together take on the CM.

“We have decided to withdraw our candidate and asked all our workers and activists to extend their support to her,” GPP vice-president Suresh Mehta said.

While the opposition closed ranks, BJP leadership continued to hail the 62-year-old as the best CM. “Modi is undertaking great development work in Gujarat. He is a role model for chief ministers of other states on how to rule, govern and take care of even the poorest,” party veteran LK Advani said at a public meeting in Mansa town of Gandhinagar district. But unlike party colleague Sushma Swaraj, Advani, known to nurse an ambition for the top post, stopped short of endorsing the Gujarat CM as the only candidate for the Prime Minister's post.