Gujarat elections: Modi, Rahul face off in Saurashtra as BJP, Congress line up rallies
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi will face off in Saurashtra on Wednesday when the two arch-rivals address multiple rallies.
Saurashtra, which goes to polls on December 9, sends 48 legislators to the 182-member assembly, and the region is dominated by Patidars and OBC communities.
Three of Modi’s four rallies are in the region and Gandhi will begin a two-day tour that will cover the five districts.
The BJP and the Congress have fielded over 50 candidates from these two communities.
Gandhi will begin the day’s campaign by offering prayers at the famous Somnath temple in Gir Somnath district.
Gandhi has been on a tour of many prominent Hindu pilgrimage places in poll-bound Gujarat, but the Somnath temple is significant since it is associated with the rise of BJP. It was after the senior BJP leader LK Advani’s Ram Rath Yatra that began from here to Ayodhya that the BJP came to power, both at the Centre and in Gujarat.
Gandhi’s second stop is Visavadar, which has a significant number of Patidar voters and is known as a stronghold of the BJP. The other two stops — Savarkundla and Amreli — also are seats where Patidars can influence the election result.
Modi also will be beginning the day from Patidar-dominated Morbi.
Later, he will address rallies at Prachi in Surendranagar district, which has a mixed population of OBC and Patidars, and Palitana in Bhavnagar, which is again a Patidar-dominated seat. Modi’s last rally will be in Navsari, near Surat in south Gujarat.
Hardik Patel, the convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) — the powerful Patidar group which recently declared support to the Congress — will also hold three rallies on Wednesday. The events will be at Maliya and Tankar in Morbi district first and in Rajkot city later in the evening.
The PAAS is up in arms against the BJP government for over two years now with its demand for OBC status to Patidars, who form 12% of the 60-million plus population of the state. They can be a deciding factor in 60 odd seats.
Because of the PAAS’s agitation, sources in the BJP say the party — for the first time in 3 decades — is unsure about support from a community that was once an unflinching backer.
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