The much-awaited outcome of the political battle – Gujarat Assembly elections 2017 – will be out on Monday as the votes for the 182 seats of the state will be counted, beginning 08:00 am.
The election results will be announced when the counting of votes will be held at 37 centres across the state’s 33 districts, amid tight security.
The Assembly polls in the coastal state is considered as a prestige battle for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a litmus test for the newly-elected Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
While the incumbent Vijay Rupani-led BJP, which has been in power in the state for over 22 years, is seeking a sixth consecutive term in office, the Congress is aiming to stage a comeback in power after being in the opposition for 27 years, riding on the support provided by caste leaders Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani, alogn with the discontent among traders due to GST and demonetisation.
However, an aggregate of all nine exit polls conducted in the poll-bound state predicts that the BJP will sweep the elections with a clear majority, claiming victory on 116 seats – one more than they won in 2012.
On the other hand, the Congress party, according to exit polls, will win around 65 seats – a slight improvement over its 2012 tally when it won 61 seats.
The results are expected to have a bearing on the 2019 parliamentary polls also as Modi had come to power in 2014, based on the Gujarat 'model of development'.
The voting in two phases – December 8 and December 14 – was held following an acrimonious campaign, where both the BJP and Congress indulged in no-hands-barred attacks on each other.
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During the poll campaign, PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah attacked the Congress on issues like Ram Temple, alleged Pakistan interference in the Gujarat polls and suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s “neech aadmi” remarks.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, persistently attacked PM Modi and the saffron party for “not talking about the future of Gujarat” and skipping key issues being faced by the people of the state.
The Congress also stitched about a broad social coalition with prominent Patidar, OBC, and Dalit leaders — Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jigesh Mevani — in its bid to unseat the BJP in power for over two decades.
Political analysts believe the caste factor remains at the core of the Gujarat assembly polls. Especially following the emergence caste agitations BJP and Congress have carefully fielded candidates, keeping the caste arithmetic in mind.
The Patidars and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) have been given maximum tickets by both the main parties. The BJP has nominated 50 Patidars this time, while the Congress has fielded 41 candidates from the community.
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The ruling party has fielded 58 OBCs while the Congress has 62 such nominees. The main opposition party has given tickets to 14 Dalits while the BJP has fielded 13.
The influential Patidar community, which accounts for around 12 per cent of the state’s population, could prove to be the ‘X factor’ in the polls in which Hardik pledged support to the Congress and appealed to people to “uproot the BJP” this time.
As the campaign was nearing its end, “Vikas” (development) took a back seat, and caste and religious issues received prominence.
The two main rival parties also tried to counter each other on social media, as the Congress and its supporters launched the campaign “Vikas Gando Thayo Che” (development has gone crazy), while the BJP launched a counter drive of “I am development, I am Gujarat“.
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An average 68.41 per cent polling was recorded in the two-phase Assembly elections in Gujarat.
According to the final figures released by the Election Commission, the voter turnout in the second phase of balloting on December 14, for 93 seats of North and Central Gujarat, stood at 69.99 per cent.
In the first phase of polls held on December 9 for 89 seats in Saurasthra, Kutch and South Gujarat, 66.75 per cent voting was recorded.
The total voter turnout this time has seen a dip of 2.91 per cent, as compared to the 2012 polls when 71.32 per cent polling was registered.
In terms of numbers, of the total 4.35 crore registered voters, 2.97 crore exercised their right to franchise in the elections held on December 9 and 14.
According to the EC data, the tribal-dominated Narmada district witnessed the highest voter turnout of 79.15 per cent, while Devbhumi-Dwarka of Saurashtra region recorded the lowest at 59.39 per cent.