Wednesday, December 13, 2017
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Poll shrill ends in high-stakes GujaratPM Narendra Modi waves to the crowd as he returns to Sabarmati riverfront by a seaplane in Ahmedabad. PTI

Poll shrill ends in high-stakes Gujarat

Perhaps the longest campaign in history of state, it was also the most acrimonious13 Dec 2017 | 1:50 AM

AHMEDABAD:The vociferous campaigning in 93 constituencies across 14 districts of north and central Gujarat, which go to the polls in the second and final phase of the Assembly elections on Thursday, came to an end today.

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Manas Dasgupta

Ahmedabad, December 12

The vociferous campaigning in 93 constituencies across 14 districts of north and central Gujarat, which go to the polls in the second and final phase of the Assembly elections on Thursday, came to an end today. In the first phase, polling was held in 89 constituencies on December 9.

As many as 851 candidates, including 350 Independents, are in the fray, with 2.22 crore people eligible to vote. Re-polling will also take place at six booths in four constituencies, two each in the Saurashtra and south Gujarat regions.

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Prominent among those in the fray are Deputy CM Nitin Patel (Mehsana) and Minister of State for Home Pradipsinh Jadeja (Vatva). Two young leaders who led agitations against the BJP government in the run-up to the elections — OBC Manch convener Alpesh Thakor, contesting on the Congress ticket from Radhanpur, and Dalit face Jignesh Mevani, contesting as an Independent with Congress support from Vadgam — will also figure in the polling.

This year’s campaigning was perhaps the longest in the history of the state with both parties scheduling trips of senior leaders almost three months in advance. It was also one of the most acrimonious. Being the home state of both PM Narendra Modi and BJP national chief Amit Shah, the polls are being seen as the semi-final before the 2019 General Election. The main Opposition Congress has also pulled out all stops with the hope that BJP’s defeat in Gujarat could pave the way for its return to power in Delhi.  While the BJP campaign was spearheaded by Modi, Shah and senior leaders, for the Congress it was almost single-handedly managed by president-elect Rahul Gandhi.

The Congress this time confined its campaign to targeting the Modi government over its performance and the “Gujarat model” of development, while Modi, who started his campaign with development as the central issue, indulged in Congress bashing and invoked his usual theme of “Gujarat pride”.

Rahul, however, refrained from making any personal attack on any BJP leader except repeatedly highlighting the case of Amit Shah’s businessman son Jay Shah.

The last day of campaigning saw both Modi and Rahul visiting temples. While Rahul visited the Lord Jagannath Temple in Ahmedabad, Modi took blessings at Ambaji Temple in Banaskantha.

The first phase of polling saw 66.75 per cent turnout, 5 per cent lower than in 2012. In the 182-member House, the BJP had won 115 seats and the Congress 61 in 2012.

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