Gujarat election: BJP, Congress’ big guns roar as campaigning ends for first phase
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Gujarat election: BJP, Congress’ big guns roar as campaigning ends for first phase

BJP’s last day of campaigning was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as party leaders continued to target Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

assembly elections Updated: Dec 08, 2017 07:41 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
Gujarat election,Narendra Modi,Modi rally Gujarat
A child dressed as Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the PM’s ‘Gujarat Vikas Rally’ in Surat.(PTI Photo)

The high-octane campaign for the first phase of the crucial Gujarat assembly elections ended on Thursday with a galaxy of leaders from both the BJP and Congress descending on the state Gujarat. Polling for the first phase will take place on Saturday.

The last day’s campaign of the BJP was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and supported by party president Amit Shah and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath among a host of party leaders.

While the top BJP leaders continued to target Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the latter was missing from the campaign after his 3-day tour from November 5 was cancelled due to warnings of bad weather in the wake of Cyclone Ockhi. But former prime minister Manmohan Singh held an interaction in Saurashtra’s industrial hub Rajkot and party veteran Ahmed Patel, political secretary to party president Sonia Gandhi, led the Congress’ counter-attack.

Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convener Hardik Patel also led the anti-BJP campaign in Patidar-dominated Saurashtra region on Thursday. Traditional supporters of the BJP for the past three decades, the Patidars are up in arms against the ruling party over their demand for OBC quota in jobs and education and have declared their support to the Congress.

A total of 89 seats -- out of 182 -- spanning the Saurashtra and south Gujarat regions, are up for grabs in the first phase with 977 candidates in the fray, including chief minister Vijay Rupani.

The Patidars can influence results on nearly 30 of the 89 seats in the first phase.

While the BJP is fighting anti-incumbency and struggling to alter a seemingly negative perception about demonetization and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rollout, the Congress, galvanised by an assertive Rahul Gandhi, has mainly targeted the “hollow Gujarat development model” to slam Modi.

Modi and Gandhi had aggressively led their parties’ campaigns in Saurashtra and south Gujarat which often turned personal.

Rahul Gandhi being greeted by supporters at a public meeting in Bhavnagar, Gujarat. (PTI Photo)

Saurashtra and Kutch are crucial for the ruling BJP as these two regions have the highest concentration of seats in the first phase. Political pundits believe that the party winning the maximum number of seats from Saurashtra and Kutch will be better placed to form the next government in the state.

Saurashtra, located on the Arabian Sea coast, covers 11 districts of the state. Kutch is the largest district comprising 10 talukas, 939 villages and six municipalities.

Prominent candidates in the fray for the Saturday battle include Rupani, who is contesting from Rajkot (West) against the Congress’ Indranil Rajyaguru, Shaktisinh Gohil (Mandvi) and Paresh Dhanani (Amreli) -- both from the Congress.

Rajput strongman Gohil has locked horns with the BJP’s new face, Virendrasinh Jadeja, also a Rajput, in the Muslim-dominated seat.

In Patidar-dominated Amreli, Dhanani (the sitting Congress MLA) is pitted against BJP heavyweight Bavkubhai Undhad, the legislator from the nearby Lathi seat.

The second and final phase of the polls will be held on December 14 and the counting of votes will be taken up on December 18.

(With inputs from PTI)

First Published: Dec 07, 2017 20:24 IST