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Gujarat votes for second and final phase of elections

After a bitter and a high voltage campaign, the stage is set for the final phase of polling in Gujarat on Thursday. The second and final phase of elections will see 93 Assembly seats spread across 14 districts in north and central Gujarat going to polls. A total of 851 candidates are in the fray for the second phase, where 2.22 crore people are eligible to vote.

If the election is a prestige battle for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it’s a litmus test for new Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

The campaign was not merely vituperative but eyebrows were raised even in the saffron camp, when the PM accused former prime minister Manmohan Singh of conspiring with Pakistan to defeat BJP. While the Opposition described the remarks as a “desperate attempt to communalise the vote bank”, BJP fielded finance minister Arun Jaitley to defend the PM.

This election is going to be the toughest fight for the BJP in the last two decades. Besides facing the wrath of traders over demonetisation and GST, a dent in its traditional Patidar vote bank has also rattled the BJP.

What came as a surprise for the saffron party was Rahul Gandhi in his new avatar. A changed man, Gandhi upped the ante and his rallies seemed to have evoked a major response from the electorate. He also strategized the rainbow coalition of Patidar and OBC leaders, which could possibly dent the BJP.

The first phase recorded heavy polling, particularly in Patidar dominated Saurashtra region. While a section claimed this does not bode well for the ruling BJP, others maintained that “people might be angry with Modi but they are not traitors”.

Besides Gandhi, the other thorn in the BJP’s foot was 24-year-old Patidar community leader Hardik Patel.

The BJP tried every possible trick to contain and woo this young man but eventually failed. A sex CD allegedly on Hardik also went viral and was aired by a TV channel. Patel had then remarked: “If I do not have any problem with the sex CDs, why should those watching it have any? Have fun.”

In the run-up to the polls a tug of war on the issue of Hindutva raged between the Congress and the BJP. Gandhi’s janeu and his temple run forced BJP to come out openly and claim that it was the “original Hindu party, while others are fake”. Despite the apparent advantages, the rejuvenated Congress faces the “mighty Modi”.

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