Gujarat Assembly Election 2017: The BJP’s big challenge in the second round is to retain Ahmedabad and Vadodara, Gujarat’s two mega cities that had overwhelmingly backed the party in the last election.
Ahmedabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fly in from Mumbai this morning to vote in Ahmedabad in the second and last phase of the crucial Gujarat assembly elections today. North and central Gujarat are voting in 93 of the state’s 182 constituencies in what is seen as a contest between PM Modi and the Congress’ Rahul Gandhi, both of who have asked the state to vote in record numbers today. Hours before polling began, a political row erupted over Rahul Gandhi’s interview to a local television channel in Gujarat that aired on Wednesday. The BJP alleged that Mr Gandhi violated the model code of conduct and complained to the Election Commission, which has issued a notice to him. The Congress has demanded similar action against PM Modi for a speech at industry body FICCI.
- Voting began at 8 am and among early voters was PM Modi’s mother Heeraben, 95. BJP chief Amit Shah, after casting vote at Naranpura, said, “Gujarat model is talked about across the world and for those trying to come in the way of this development, people must come in large numbers to vote. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will also vote today.
- The 93 constituencies that go to vote today are in 14 districts. The ruling BJP won 52 of these seats in the previous election, and the Congress 39 while two more are held by the Nationalist Congress Party and an Independent. The BJP’s big challenge in this round is to retain Ahmedabad and Vadodara, Gujarat’s two mega cities that had overwhelmingly backed the party in the last election. Of the seats that go to polls today, the BJP had won 26 of the 31 seats from these two districts alone.
- The Congress has attempted to harness the anger of key groups against the ruling party and has tied up with Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, backward leader Alpesh Thakore and the face of the Patidar campaign Hardik Patel.
- It is in the tribal belt that the BJP expects to make up for any loss that it might incur in other places. The BJP’s lead campaigner PM Modi has extensively focused on the tribal belts to complement the party’s conscious effort to deepen its roots within the tribal community including encouraging local leaders.
- Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel is contesting from Mehsana, from where Hardik Patel launched his movement to demand reservation for Patels in government jobs and colleges with a massive rally. Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani is contesting from Vadgam as an Independent candidate, with the Congress not fielding anyone against him.
- PM Modi will vote at a polling booth in the Nishan High School in Ranip locality of Sabarmati, about 10 km from the river from where he took off in a seaplane on Tuesday after a roadshow in Ahmedabad was cancelled. As he left for Delhi after wrapping up a hectic campaign schedule, PM Modi made an emotional vote appeal asking Gujarat to “not only give the BJP an overwhelming majority but also ensure that BJP wins in every polling booth across the state.”
- “There is a massive undercurrent against the BJP in Gujarat,” said Rahul Gandhi, who had quite unlike his previous efforts in state elections camped in Gujarat for weeks. He attacked the BJP on economic and development issues during much of his campaign hoping to amplify any anti-incumbency factor that could go against the BJP after its uninterrupted run in power for 22 years. Mr Gandhi has predicted a “zabardast” verdict.
- PM Modi has pitched the Gujarat battle as one between “vikas (development)” and “vanshwaad (dynasty),” in an attack on Rahul Gandhi, who is set to take over from his mother Sonia Gandhi as Congress president before Gujarat votes.
- Just as campaigning ended, the PM invoked Gujarati pride urging voters to reject the Congress over the “neech” slur by the party’s Mani Shankar Aiyar. The PM also linked Mr Aiyar’s comment with him hosting a dinner for former Pakistan Foreign Affairs Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri and attended by former PM Manmohan Singh and other Congress leaders last week and said it was an insult to Gujarat. He has said his home state will “take revenge on voting day.”
- In the first phase of assembly elections across 89 constituencies in Kutch, Saurashtra and south Gujarat, around 68 per cent voter turnout was recorded, lower than last time, when 71.3 per cent polling took place.