Both Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi said they expect their parties to come to power in Gujarat as the state held the first phase of voting on December 9. Gujarat saw 68 per cent voter turnout in the phase of voting held in Kutch, Saurashtra and south Gujarat. This is lower than last time’s 71.3 per cent for the whole state. Anyways, now Modi and Rahul need to woo voters in the remaining 93 seats. PM Modi, while campaigning in Gujarat kept up his severe attack on the Congress and spurred voters to “avenge the insults” and “abuses” hurled at the “son of Gujarat” by the party, which, he said, was “depressed” because it was facing defeat. Rahul also took a jibe at the “Modi model” of development and named 10 villages where land acquired by Gujarat government was handed over to industrialists. Besides all these attacks, one prominent thing can be noticed that the BJP resorted to attack only Congress and Gandhi family. They could not focus anything beyond this attack, but Rahul Gandhi delivered much matured presentation by talking on crucial issues of state and its development. In a way he successfully exposed BJP’s Gujarat model and nervous BJP keeps on attacking on all irrelevant topics.
Maximum ever the Congress won, even after the sympathy wave in 1984 after the demise of Hon. PM Indira Gandhi, was 149 out of the 182 seats. Amit Shah wants BJP to win at least 150 seats in this election. Whereas, even a win of less than 100 (actually 92 seats) would give a simple majority. BJP wants to break all the records and convey strongly that the party is still a people’s first choice. If we look at the history of Congress’s existence in Gujarat during pre EVM days except when there were incidence of political sympathy and in 1962 and 1972, even with paper ballots, the party did not improve its tally. The new generation born after 1960s did not improve Congress’s status above 60 and there were no re-organisation of constituencies adding any number of seats usually done by Congress ruled states to keep up with “increase in population”. The number 182 remained static since 1975. Right from 1990, in six assembly elections, in 22 years, Congress won just from 33 seats out of 182 up to a maximum of 69, other four around 50 (averaging exactly 50-51) and Rahul was nowhere near Gujarat or even his Congress party itself. So he will never be responsible even if his party gets below that 50 this time. Nor the credit goes to Modi if party pulls all expected seats. So if BJP gets 150 and all opposition (mainly Congress) can share only 32, which is less than the recorded low till now! So let us hope, Congress wins at least 92, on December 18.
On Saturday voting was held in 89 constituencies. Voting in the second phase for the remaining 93 of the state’s 182 constituencies will be held on next Thursday. To form the government, a party needs to win at least 92 seats in the assembly. Results will be announced on December 18. The Election Commission said a little over 0.5 per cent of the total ballot units and control units – which make up the EVM – had to be replaced during voting. That is about 181 ballot units and 223 control units, apart from 714 VVAPT or the voter verified paper audit trail machines. Overall the numbers look large but as a proportion of the total very few machines were found faulty and they were replaced.
The Gujarat election is seen as a Modi vs Rahul Gandhi duel, with both leading their parties from the front in an aggressive, often bitter and personal campaign, to win the crucial state ahead of the national election in 2019. While the BJP has, in past elections, dominated the areas that voted on Saturday – it holds 67 of the 89 seats – Saurashtra and Surat are seen as strategically vital in this election because they have a large number of Patels or Patidars, an influential caste reportedly upset with the ruling party. Young Patidar activist Hardik Patel has asked his community to reject the BJP for failing to extend affirmative action policies to them. Saurashtra and Kutch also have the maximum number of constituencies that voted on Saturday and the party that wins the most seats in these regions will be seen to have a head start. Rahul Gandhi has partnered with Hardik Patel and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, also inducting backward caste (OBC) leader Alpesh Thakore into his party, in an attempt to consolidate votes of communities seen to be upset with the ruling BJP. In Surat, the diamond and textile hub that has 12 assembly seats, Rahul Gandhi urged traders to punish the BJP, alleging that PM Modi’s mega reforms notes ban and new national tax GST have brought small businesses to their knees. Union ministers Arun Jaitley and Smriti Irani defended the GST and demonetisation, trying to allay the concerns of the traders.
There was another less mysterious, even if superficial, message for people who have been watching Rahul; he suddenly seemed less diffident, surer of him. In his new avatar, Rahul also acted swiftly against Mani Shankar Aiyar for the Congress veteran’s “neech (lowly)” comment against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is the same Rahul who, a year ago, had accused the Prime Minister of doing “dalali” with the blood of dead soldiers. And the same Rahul who, in the September of 2013, had rolled up his sleeves and torn into shreds an ordinance the UPA government headed by his party was bringing to negate a Supreme Court order on disqualifying convicted MPs and MLAs. His act had embarrassed then PM Manmohan Singh and prompted Narendra Modi, then the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, to say the “shehzada (prince)” had committed a sin by insulting the PM — “Congress vice-president ne aapki pagdi uchhaal di”.
One week to go, let’s see who will wear the Pagdi in Gujarat and rule the state.
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