With just a day left for Gujarat to go on two-phase Assembly polls, the head priest of Swaminarayan temple, Bhakti Prasad was attacked by miscreants in Junagadh’s Kotda village. BJP has blamed the Congress for the attack. The priest was reportedly campaigning for the BJP. There are two sects of the temple and the priest belongs to the sect that has always supported the BJP, CNN News 18 reported. For a long time, both sects have been in confrontation with one another. The motive behind the attack is still not known. The police have started probing the matter.
Even as the first phase of the election is scheduled to be held tomorrow, the second will be held on December 14. Results will be declared on December 18. Campaigning for the first phase ended on Thursday. Out of the total of 182 seats, 89 are up for grabs on Saturday. As many as 977 candidates are in the fray including Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. As per Gujarat Chief Electoral Officer BB Swain, about 2.12 crore of the 4.35 crore voters were expected to exercise their franchise in the first phase. Earlier, the Election Commission (EC) had announced that after Goa, Gujarat would be the second state where the Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system would be used, alongside Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), at all 50,128 polling booths.
Even as the ruling BJP is fighting anti-incumbency factor and is trying to alter negative perception on demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rollout, the Congress, on the other hand, has mainly targeted the Gujarat development model to hit out at PM Narendra Modi. Kutch and Saurashtra are being considered as crucial for the BJP as these two regions have the highest number of seats in the first phase.
In 2012, Assembly elections, BJP had won 35, while Congress won 20 of the 58 seats from both these regions. Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) of Keshubhai Patel, which is now defunct, won two, while Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) won one seat. From 35 seats spread across South Gujarat, the BJP had won 28 and the Congress six same year. The tally of the BJP and the Congress in Saurashtra and Kutch in 2007 stood at 43 and 14 respectively, while NCP got one seat.