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First phase focus on BJP dissidents

india Updated: Dec 10, 2007 00:07 IST
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Campaigning for the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections, dominated by an unprecedented war of words between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Chief Minister Narendra Modi, ended on Sunday evening.

There are 669 candidates in the fray for 87 of the 182 seats, for which voting takes place on Tuesday. These are in Kutch, Saurashtra and south Gujarat.

The campaign remained dominated by just one personality Narendra Modi. He was the BJP’s sole crowd puller, holdings meetings in almost every constituency.

The Congress relied heavily on Sonia to draw in the crowds. Her speeches focused almost entirely on attacking Modi and his claims to have brought unprecedented economic development to the state.

“It is the first time in Gujarat that an election has revolved completely around a single individual, Narendra Modi,” said political analyst Ghanshyam Shah.

Analysts have said that a key factor in the first phase will be the BJP dissidents, who quit the party following serious differences with Modi, and some of whom are contesting on Congress tickets. Their influence is mainly confined to Kutch, Saurashtra and the Surat region of south Gujarat. “'We will show the official BJP how strong we are. Nobody can work for a leader who has no respect for others,” said Gordhan Zadaphiya, one of their leaders, referring to Modi.

Tuesday’s election will reveal the extent of support enjoyed by former chief minister and veteran BJP leader, Keshubhai Patel , who is supporting the dissidents. His political base is the Saurashtra region with 52 seats.

The Congress may have been out of power for 12 years, but it, too, has its share of dissidents, specially in south Gujarat. Supporters of union textiles minister Shankarsinh Vaghela and state party president Bharat Solanki are engaged in factional fights.

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