Voting for 1st phase of Gujarat elections today

Voting for 1st phase of Gujarat elections today

It is perhaps one of the most high-stakes Assembly elections the country has seen in years.

And the deciding authority would rest with about 2.12 crore Gujarat voters, who will cast their ballots at 24,689 polling booths in the first phase of the elections on Saturday, to seal the fate of 977 candidates, including seven ministers and 45 sitting legislators, fighting it out to win 89 Assembly constituencies of the total 182 seats. Polling would be held in Saurashtra, that accounts for 48 seats, Kutch with six seats and South Gujarat, the remaining 35 seats.

Among the key candidates in the fray include Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani from Rajkot (West), Gujarat BJP chief Jitu Vaghani from Bhavnagar (West), senior Congress leaders Shaktisinh Gohil from Mandvi (Kutch), Arjun Modhvadia from Porbandar and Paresh Dhanani from Amreli, all from Saurashtra-Kutch region. While it is farmers, Patel quota stir and caste equations that dominated the politics and discourse in the Saurashtra-Kutch region, it is Patels, impact of demonetisation and GST on textiles and diamond business, lack of development in tribal districts and in the sugar bowl that could be the deciding factor in South Gujarat . Noises of 'communal' undertones were also being circulated on social media in this region.

The voting for the remaining 93 seats across North and Central Gujarat will be held in the second phase on December 14. Counting of votes will be taken up on December 18.

None other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress' president-elect - Rahul Gandhi - have taken it upon themselves to steer the winds of victory in their favour.

So much so that the Prime Minister is said to have held twice the number public meetings he held in the run-up to elections in India's biggest state, Uttar Pradesh.

And for Rahul Gandhi, it appeared to be an opportunity to reinvent his image from being a novice politician to an affable, temple-hopping man of controlled aggression.

It had all the ingredients of a political potboiler, be it social and economic - from Dalit oppression in Una by self-styled cow protectors to right prices for agri produce to groundnut and cotton farmers.

The run-up also saw the resentment against tax as GST, quota stir by the Patels, with the rise of a young turk Hardik Patel and unequivocal support for the old guard, Narendra Modi. It is also dubbed to be the toughest test of the 'Gujarat Model' of development and politics.

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