Gujarat sets up for 3-front Assembly polls; AAP may cut into BJP votes

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, November 3: Finally, the Election Commission on Thursday unveiled the poll dates for the two-phase Assembly elections for Gujarat after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had exhausted inauguration and laying of foundations for the development projects.

The BJP has been in power in Gujarat for over three decades. The people in Gujarat will vote on December 1 and December 5, while the counting of votes will be taken up on December 8 along with Himachal Pradesh. The BJP is leading the incumbent governments in both the states. The Election Commission has given just about one month to complete the election exercise.

While the BJP campaign has already been in top gear with Modi leading the charge, Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party are also in the midst of their spirited campaigns. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has taken the full might of his party from across the country to Gujarat to make inroads in Gujarat with aims to become a formidable player in the 2027 Assembly elections in the state.

In the last elections, the BJP had won with reduced victory margin, polling just over eight per cent more votes than Congress. The BJP had won 99 Assembly seats, down from 111, while Congress had improved its tall to 77 from 62 seats. The BJP had polled 40.1 per cent votes against Congress’ 41.4 per cent. The BJP had made impressive gains in the urban trading centres such as Surat, while Congress had consolidated gains in the rural parts of the state. Congress counts on support base among tribal, Dalit and minorities in the state, while its cadre base remains strong in Gujarat unlike Madhya Pradesh.

The BJP was pushed to the wall on the back of the spirited Patidar campaign in the last elections. In the last five years, the BJP has triggered defections from the ranks of Congress, including of the MLAs. The entry of AAP in Gujarat elections is a surprise package, because the Kejriwal-led outfit is expected to make presence felt in the urban centres, and the state-based political observers claimed that the party could also harm the BJP. Since the difference between the BJP and Congress in the last elections was of just about eight per cent, the AAP factor could swing the outcome of the elections in some of the constituencies.

The BJP will be testing the impact of its experiment to replace Chief Minister and Ministers with younger leadership. The incumbent Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, a former mayor of Ahmedabad, is not known to be a mass leader. Congress is also without a mass leader, and party leader Shaktisinh Gohil is leading the election campaign.

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