Stage set for final phase of voting in high-stakes Gujarat poll battle

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Voting for 93 out of 182 assembly seats in Gujarat will be held on December 5, when 833 candidates will be contesting across 14 districts of central Gujarat, including Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Gandhinagar, for the second and final phase of the elections. Polling for 89 seats took place on December 1. The results will be declared on December 8.

In 2017, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 48 out of 89 seats in the first phase of polling and bagged 51 in the second phase, taking its total tally to 99 out of 182 seats. The Congress won 38 in the first phase and 39 in the second phase of elections in 2017.

The first phase of voting on December 1 recorded 63.31% turnout. The Election Commission of India on Saturday issued a special appeal to voters ahead of the next phase on Monday, urging them to reverse the “urban apathy”.

A total of 25 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the second phase, including 12.9 million men and 12.2 million women. There are 5.96 million first-time voters in the age group of 18 to 19 years, according to the Election Commission. The poll body has set up 14,975 polling stations for which 113,000 election officers have been deployed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has held more than 35 rallies in the state since the election dates were announced on November 3, took out two back-to-back road shows in Ahmedabad on December 1 and 2, including one 50km roadshow that covered 14 of 16 constituencies in Ahmedabad, and one in Gandhinagar.

Union ministers Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Smriti Irani and BJP president JP Nadda also campaigned for the ruling party in the second phase.

Modi arrived in Ahmedabad on Sunday to exercise his franchise and took blessings from his mother in Gandhinagar. He will cast his vote at a polling station in the Ranip locality of Sabarmati constituency of Ahmedabad city on Monday, the BJP said in a statement. On Sunday,

Union home minister Amit Shah will cast his vote at a municipal sub-zonal office in Naranpura locality of Ahmedabad city.

Prominent candidates in the second phase include chief minister Bhupendra Patel at Ghatlodia, Patidar leader Hardik Patel at Viramgam, OBC leader Alpesh Thakor at Gandhinagar South, former minister Shankar Chaudhary at aTharad and Jignesh Mevani at Vadgam. Patel, Thakor and Chaudhary are contesting as BJP candidates, while Mevani is contesting on a Congress ticket.

The ruling BJP is also facing a challenge from rebel candidates in some places in the second phase. The party’s seven-time MLA from Waghodia, Madhu Shrivastav, is contesting as an independent after being denied a ticket. Former BJP MLAs Dinu Solanki, Dhavalsinh Zala and Harshad Vasava are running as independents from Padra, Bayad and Nandod seats, respectively.

In central Gujarat, the BJP had bagged 37 seats in 2017, outnumbering the Congress, which got 22 in the second phase. But in north Gujarat, the Congress had won 17 seats, while the saffron outfit got 14.

The BJP and the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party are contesting in all 93 seats in the second phase. The Congress is contesting in 90 seats and its alliance partner Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has fielded candidates in two seats. Among other parties, the Bharatiya Tribal Party has fielded 12 candidates and the Bahujan Samaj Party 44.

During the last leg of the campaign, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath held rallies in Dholka, Mahudha and Khambhat towns, while Union minister Smriti Irani held road shows in Modasa and Siddhpur towns of north Gujarat. Punjab chief minister and AAP leader Bhagwant Singh Mann held rallies and road shows across all the 14 districts.



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