Stage set for phase 1 of Gujarat polls: Key players, constituencies

NEW DELHI: Will the people of Gujarat yet again renew their 27-year-old bond with BJP or can the Congress finally dislodge the saffron citadel? Or will Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) — the third challenger in the race — manage to dent the prospects of BJP and Congress? The voters will finally decide on December 1 in the first phase of the Gujarat elections.
After weeks of hectic campaigning, voting will take place in 89 out of the 182 seats spread across 18 districts of Gujarat on December 1. The remaining seats will vote in the second phase on December 5.
The campaigning ended at 5pm on Tuesday ahead of the first phase of polling.
BJP eyes history, Cong comeback
Just like the previous assembly polls, the two-phase elections will be a prestige battle for BJP which has firmly entrenched itself in the coastal state’s political landscape.
Being the home state of two of the country’s tallest political leaders — Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah — winning the elections mean yet another stamp of approval for BJP and its top poster boys.
The Congress, which ran a rather muted campaign in the state, is hopeful of consolidating its gains from 2017 when it managed to improve its tally to 77 seats. However, the grand old party has since seen an exodus of several top leaders, including Hardik Patel.
Meanwhile, the AAP will be looking to make a strong debut in the state, hoping to make deep inroads in its attempt to dislodge the Congress as the principal challenger to the BJP. Compared to Congress, the AAP ran a rather aggressive campaign in the state which was spearheaded by party chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.
Battleground Saurashtra, south Gujarat
Out of the 89 seats going to polls in the first phase, the BJP won 48 in the 2017 election, the Congress had won 40, while one seat was bagged by an independent candidate.
With 54 seats, the Saurashtra-Kutch region will be crucial for the Congress as it seeks to better its performance.
In the region, the Congress won 30 seats in 2017 compared to 16 in the 2012 election. The BJP, on the other hand, was reduced to 23 seats in 2017 as against 35 won by it in the previous election.
In south Gujarat, Congress in 2017 bettered its tally to 10 compared to six in the previous polls, while BJP’s tally dropped to 25 in the last election from 28 earlier.
South Gujarat also comprises Surat city with 12 seats which have remained the BJP’s bastion since a long time.
AAP has fielded some of its senior state leaders from Surat and hopes to win seven-eight seats in the city, as declared by its national convener Arvind Kejriwal.
High decibel campaigning
The BJP and AAP went full throttle during the weeks-long campaigning for the elections.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah spearheaded the BJP’s campaign, holding rallies and roadshows in the state with an eye on winning a record seventh term in office.
BJP chief JP Nadda, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, Himachal Pradesh CM Jairam Thakur, Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma as well as Union ministers Smriti Irani, Mansukh Mandaviya, Piyush Goyal, Nitin Gadkari also campaigned during the first phase of elections.
BJP Yuva Morcha president Tejasvi Surya and leaders Manoj Tiwari and Ravi Kishan also held rallies to garner support for the party candidates.
The Congress ran a “silent campaign” in the state, focussing on localised door-to-door canvassing to mobilise support.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot were among the prominent campaigners for the party.
Away on Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi was hardly seen during the campaigning in the state. He addressed just two rallies in the run up to the polls.
Meanwhile, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann campaigned extensively for AAP in the state, making various promises.
788 candidates in fray
A total of 788 candidates are in the fray in the 89 seats, including 718 male candidates and 70 female candidates.
Candidates from both BJP and Congress will be contesting on all 89 seats in the first phase, while AAP will contest on 88 seats.
Among prominent candidates, Gujarat chief minster Bhupendra Patel is contesting from Ghatlodia, AAP chief ministerial candidate Isudan Gadhvi from Khambhaliya, former Congress leader and BJP candidate Hardik Patel from Viramgam, former Congress leader and now BJP candidate Alpesh Thakor from Gandhinagar South.
AAP state president Gopal Italia is contesting from Katargam constituency, Gujarat home minister Harsh Sanghavi from Majura, Rivaba Jadeja from Jamnagar North, former Gujarat minister Parshottam Solanki from Bhavnagar Rural, Kunwarji Bavaliya from Jasdan, Kantilal Amrutiya from Morbi and Jayesh Radadiya from Jetpur.
Former BJP MLA Madhu Shrivastav is contesting as an Independent from Vaghodia.
Sitting Congress MLAs like Lalit Kagathara, Lalit Vasoya, Rutvik Makwana and Mohammad Javed Pirzada are also among the candidates in fray.
In numbers
Out of the total 4,91,35,400 registered voters in Gujarat, 2,39,76,670 are eligible to cast their votes in the first phase of the elections. These include 5.74 lakh voters in the age group of 18-19 years, and 4,945 above the age of 99 years, the office of the state CEO said.
Voting will be held across 14,382 polling stations, of which 3,311 are in the urban and 11,071 in rural areas, the poll body said in a release.
The election body has set up 89 ‘model polling stations’, as many stations run by differently-abled people, 89 eco-friendly polling stations and 611 run by women. There are also 18 polling stations run by the youth, it said.
A total 34,324 ballot units, an equal number of control units, and 38,749 Voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines will be used for the election in the first phase, the release said.
A total of 2,20,288 trained officers and employees will be on duty for the smooth conduct of the election process, it said.
In the first phase, 27,978 presiding officers and 78,985 polling officers will be on duty, it said.
(With inputs from PTI)

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