Campaigning for the first phase of one of the most bitterly fought elections to the Gujarat assembly, which was marked by caustic exchange of words between the Congress and the ruling BJP, ended on Sunday.
From an initially staid campaign, electioneering in the past week suddenly became bitter after Congress President Sonia Gandhi in her poll speech made the "merchant of death" remark against Narendra Modi and, in a tit-for-tat, in another meeting in South Gujarat, the Gujarat Chief Minister kicked up a storm by referring to the fake encounter of Soharabuddin in December 2005.
While Congress party stood by Gandhi's remark against Modi, the Gujarat Chief Minister told the Election Commission that he never justified Sohrabuddin's encounter killing.
As many as 87 constituencies in the 182-member strong state assembly will go to polls in the first phase on December 11. Polling for rest of the seats will be held on December 16.
The political atmosphere in the state got further aggravated by the comments of Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh that there was "Hindu terrorism" in Gujarat. Complaints were filed and the remarks of the Congress and BJP leaders became a hot subject of debate, which was followed by issuance of notices to them by the Election Commission.
Around 1,78,77,771 voters (93,14,640 males and 85,63,131 females) will decide the fate of 669 candidates including 53 women contesting for the 87 assembly seats in South Gujarat and Saurashtra and Kutch regions.
The stakes are quiet high as this elections will be a make or break situation for Modi who has taken up the task to get his party back to power on his personnel image.