Thursday marked the end of campaigning in Battleground Gujarat for all parties in fray for the 182-seat state Assembly election. During the entire campaign, all eyes were on the two main parties—the BJP and the Congress—as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi left no stone unturned to seek an upper hand in the former's home turf.
The first phase of the election, dubbed as a prestige battle for Modi and a litmus test for the leadership of soon-to-be Congress president Rahul Gandhi, will be held on Saturday. With 977 candidates in the fray, including Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, a total of 89 seats spanning the Saurashtra and south Gujarat regions, are up for grabs in the first phase.
While the BJP is seeking to alter a seemingly negative perception about BJP-ruled NDA government's decisions of demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rollout, the Congress has mainly targeted the "Gujarat development model," claiming that it has failed the people.
The Election Commission expects around 2.12 crore of the 4.35 crore voters of the state to exercise their franchise on Saturday. The following infographs can paint a clearer picture of what the past looked like for the BJP and Congress, and what the stakes are as Gujarat goes into polls.
While campaigning in Gujarat, Modi had tried to refresh the memory of the statehood struggle for the state. “It was the Congress which killed youngsters who were associated with the Mahagujarat movement,” Financial Express quoted Modi as saying at a rally in Kutch.
Gujarat was, in fact, a Congress stronghold after it became a state in 1960. It was only in 1995 that the BJP could break the jinx, under the leadership of Keshubhai Patel. Despite Keshubhai Patel's short reign of two years, the BJP sustained its foothold in the state, which has lasted for 22 years now, as Times Now reported,
Saurashtra and Kutch are crucial in the poll-bound state as the two regions have the highest concentration of seats in the first phase.
Political experts believe that the party winning the maximum number of seats from Saurashtra and Kutch will be better placed to form the next government in the state.
While Saurashtra covers 11 districts of the state, Kutch is the largest district in Gujarat, comprising 10 talukas, 939 villages and six municipalities.
In 2012, of the 58 seats in Saurashtra and Kutch, the BJP had won 35 in the Assembly polls and the Congress got 20. Of the 35 seats spread across the seven districts of south Gujarat, the BJP had won 28 and the Congress six in the 2012 polls.
While Congress had a strong vote share in the rural constituencies, it was not enough to oust the BJP rule.
Despite the widening of victory margin between the BJP and Congress over the years, it is believed that this election may not be a one-sided affair for the BJP this time around. This may be partly because of issues like the Patidar reservation agitation, demonetisation, and GST.
A big takeaway for the Congress from these polls is ensuring the support of the Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS). Patels have traditionally formed the bedrock of the BJP's support in Gujarat. In its bid to form a caste bloc against the BJP, the Congress has won over Alpesh Thakor, Patel and Jignesh Mevani.
Although Congress is desperate to strike gold in Gujarat, the figures are unlikely to work in its favour. Most opinion polls have given a clear edge to the BJP. According to the Times Now/VMR opinion poll, the saffron party will win 111 seats—four less than 2012, but way above the magic number of 92.
However, given the high stakes, both parties will not be at ease until the counting day which is 18 December, 2017.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Dec 08, 2017 18:19:51 IST