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Gujarat elections: Final phase of polling to decide if BJP is still strong in the state

North and central Gujarat vote in the second round of assembly elections in 93 seats. The final phase covers urban centres such as Ahmedabad and Vadodara — the BJP’s stronghold — and Mehsana.

assembly elections Updated: Dec 14, 2017 10:12 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Gujarat polls,Gujarat,Gujarat elections 2017
Officials travel on a bus with Electronic Voting Machines and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) ahead of the second phase of Gujarat Vidhan Sabha elections in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. (AFP Photo)

Gujarat votes today.

It decides the fate of 93 seats across 14 districts of northern and central Gujarat in the second and final phase of assembly elections. Voting in 89 seats happened in the first round on December 9.

It decides if the BJP’s hold over Gujarat remains tight or it has ceded ground to the Congress. It decides if the troika of Hardik Patel-Alpesh Thakor-Jignesh Mevani has taken the sheen off the “Gujarat development model” or the state continues to believe in it despite 19 years of uninterrupted BJP rule.

It decides if Amit Shah’s much touted booth management demolishes yet another political challenge as it did in Uttar Pradesh or it falls flat like it did in Delhi and Bihar.

Answers to these will be known on December 18, where the results will be declared, but the BJP is war ready for the last round of voting.

It won 53 of these 93 seats in 2012. The Congress got 39 and one seat each went to the Nationalist Congress Party and an independent.

The second round is as crucial for the BJP as the first phase. It covers urban centres such as Ahmedabad and Vadodara — the BJP’s stronghold — and Mehsana.

The BJP dominated Ahmedabad, winning 17 of 21 seats, Vadodara (9 of 10), Patan (3 of 4) and Mahesana (5 of 7) in 2012.

But it was challenged this time. Mehsana is the epicentre of the Patidar stir for reservation in jobs and education in 2015. The movement led by Hardik Patel troubled the BJP in other parts too. Patidars have a strong presence in and around Mehsana, and the BJP worked overtime to limit any possible damage because of the community’s anger after police firing killed several Patidar protesters last year.

Mehsana is also the hometown of Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani, who became a prominent leader protesting against the Una flogging. Members of cattle vigilante flogged several Dalit men in Una last year on the suspicion of cow slaughter.

The battle of Patan, too, has become interesting with the entry of OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, the Congress candidate for Radhanpur. The Thakore community has a sizeable presence, concentrated mainly in northern Gujarat.

BJP is confident the troika will prove to be a non-starter. “Alpesh and Jignesh are on a sticky wicket,” a BJP general secretary said. “If they are so popular, why did they get pinned to their seats?”

The BJP’s election strategists said Alpesh’s hold over Thakore voters is exaggerated, and results would prove the community and other OBCs prefer Narendra Modi over Rahul Gandhi.

The BJP is confident it will not only keep its hold in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Mehsana and Patan districts but also improve its tally in Anand district, where it won just two of the seven seats in 2012.

Anand is the home of Amul Dairy, a milk cooperative whose chairman Ramsinh Parmar, a Congress MLA, switched loyalty to the BJP in August and is contesting on a BJP ticket from neighbouring Kheda district this time. The BJP won just two of six seats in Kheda in the previous polls.

The potato basket of Banaskantha is Gujarat’s third largest district and accounts for nine assembly seats, five of which went to the Congress in 2012.

The BJP tried to win over the tribal populace with several welfare schemes. It promoted tribal faces, a strategy that it believes will pay dividend in Sabarkantha district, whose three of four seats went to the Congress in 2012. Sabarkantha, Kheda and Anand districts have a large tribal population.

First Published: Dec 14, 2017 08:05 IST