Parties keep fingers crossed after dull phase 1

Ahmedabad: The high-decibel campaign for the second and final phase of the Gujarat Assembly election on Dec 5 ended on Saturday with political parties pulling out all stops to mobilise voters after the first phase on Dec 1 saw the turnout drop.

The second phase will see 93 constituencies in North and Central Gujarat, including in the key cities of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Gandhinagar, going to the polls.

The first phase covered 89 constituencies in South Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch and averaged a turnout of 63.31 percent, almost 4 percent lower than in 2017, when the BJP dropped to double digits for the first time with 99 seats while the Congress got its highest tally in a quarter century of 77 seats.

Political parties and candidates are surprised

Political parties and candidates are surprised that despite three major parties being in the fray this time, the polling percentage was not encouraging. While the Congress and AAP hope the drop in polling implies a large number of BJP voters did not show up, the latter argues there is no wave against the ruling party which is seeking its seventh term in a row.

Another intriguing statistic that emerged from the detailed polling data of the first phase released by the Election Commission on Friday evening was the sluggish voting by women, which was less than their vote in 2017 in 83 out of 89 seats. Women are usually seen to favour the BJP in Gujarat.

Four of the six seats where women surpassed the polling of 2017 fall in the Congress stronghold Adivasi belt of South Gujarat while two are in the industrial suburbs of Surat city.

Sound and fury of campaign was higher than the tired polling

The sound and fury of the campaign was much higher than the tired polling in the first phase. Since the BJP saw major reverses in these very three regions, it is of paramount importance for the saffron party to better its performance in the 93 seats in the second phase.

There are as many as 833 candidates from a mind-boggling 60 political parties, including the BJP, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), in the fray.

This was also the reason for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aggressive campaign on Dec 1 and 2 accompanied by two road shows in Ahmedabad, which alone has 16 seats. This was besides the army of BJP leaders that campaigned across the State in the past month.

The BJP held several road shows on Saturday

On Saturday, too, the BJP held several road shows and poll rallies of star campaigners with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath leading in Dholka, Mahudha and Khambhat and Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani holding road shows in Modasa and Siddhpur towns of North Gujarat.

While the Dec 1 polling took place in 19 districts, the second phase will be held in 14 districts of North and Central Gujarat.

Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel is seeking his second term from Ghatlodia seat in Ahmedabad and is a favourite to win. Patidar leader Hardik Patel is contesting his maiden election on a BJP ticket from his hometown Viramgam in Ahmedabad district, while another Young Turk and Congress turncoat Alpesh Thakore is contesting from Gandhinagar South seat, also on a BJP ticket.

Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, seeking a second term from the Vadgam Scheduled Caste reserved seat in North Gujarat’s Banaskantha district, is the only one of the 2017 troika that brought the BJP to the doorstep of defeat, who has remained with the Congress.

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