A total of 788 candidates are in the fray for 89 seats across 19 districts of south Gujarat and Kutch-Saurashtra regions, where voting will be held for the first phase of Gujarat Assembly elections today.
The state, which has traditionally witnessed a bipolar contest between the ruling BJP and Congress, has a third player this time—the AAP, which has fielded candidates on 181 out of total of 182 seats.
In the first phase, 89 candidates each of the BJP and Congress, and 88 of the AAP are in the fray. AAP candidate for Surat East withdrew his nomination on the last day. The BJP has fielded nine, Congress six and AAP five women candidates in the first phase. Of total 788 candidates in the first phase, 718 are male and only 70 female.
Mayavati-led BSP has fielded 57 candidates in the first phase, Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) has fielded 14, Samajwadi Party 12, Communist Party of India (Marxist) four, Communist Party of India two candidates. There are 339 independents.
In a state where the BJP remains the dominant force and enjoys unqualified support from a big chunk of people, the Saffron party is eying yet another victory.
The opposition appears to be missing in a big swathe of the state’s urban region cutting across cities such as Rajkot, Ahmedabad, Surat, Porbandar and Vadodara. According to poll watchers, the Congress remains a shrinking force in these areas while the AAP has been able to make an impression, especially in Surat and its neighbourhood, but still has a long way to go.
Issues of price rice, complaints about the rising cost of edible oil and cooking gas cylinders are brought up in virtually every conversation. Unemployment crops up often with many voters of the view that the government is not doing enough in the education and health sectors.
However, many of them continue to repose faith in the BJP, which has been in power uninterrupted since 1998. The ideological and cultural agenda of the party is a big plus for most. Amit Shah has repeatedly expressed confidence that his party will break all records while Modi has exhorted voters to better the best-ever best tally of 127 seats it had won in 2002 when he was CM.
The central Gujarat region, having 61 or nearly one-third of the total 182 assembly seats in the state, provides a contrasting mix of tribal and highly urbanised areas across eight districts where the ruling BJP gained a distinctive lead over the Congress in the 2017 elections. Political analysts say the Congress appears on the backfoot this time.
In the 2017 elections, the BJP won 37 seats and the Congress 22, while two seats went to independents in the central Gujarat region.
When compared to the 2012 results, the central Gujarat region did not witness much change in the party-wise seat composition in 2017. Due to the absence of Patidars, the region remained largely impervious to the ‘anti-BJP wave’ created by the community’s quota agitation led by Hardik Patel, who is now a BJP candidate from Viramgam seat, which falls within the region.
The urban factor also plays out strongly in favour of the BJP.
Also Read: Will Kandhal Come Back In Cowboy Country Kutiyana?