Campaigning is heating up in Gujarat ahead of announcement of dates for the Assembly elections, with prominent political leaders like Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi visiting the state.
The elections are crucial for the ruling BJP which aims to retain power in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while the Congress hopes for a win after remaining out of power for 27 years in the key state.
For new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the elections, scheduled to be held in two months, will be an opportunity to emerge as a pan-nation party.
The state will see a three-cornered contest between BJP, Congress and AAP. Gujarat has seen frequent visits of top national leaders ahead of the elections, and parties are firming up their strategies. The roads of cities and villages of Gujarat are filled up with advertisement banners of political parties.
“Political parties have started high decibel campaigns for the elections, whose dates may be announced any time this month,” political observer Hari Desai said.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah was in Gujarat for two days last week and discussed the poll strategy with the local BJP functionaries. He will hold more meetings with them to fine tune the party’s strategy.
Modi was on a whirlwind tour of Gujarat for two days this week and inaugurated/laid the foundation stone of projects worth over Rs 27,000 crore in different parts of the state like Surat, Bhavnagar, Ahmedabad and Ambaji.
He also inaugurated metro train services for Ahmedabad and also flagged off India’s third Vande Bharat Express from Gandhinagar to Mumbai.
AAP leaders Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann are in Gujarat and are addressing poll rallies in different parts of the state. The Kejriwal-led party’s leaders Manish Sisodia and Raghav Chadha are camping in Gujarat.
Congress’ Gujarat in-charge Raghu Sharma is campaigning in the state, while national leaders of the party are busy with Bharat Jodo padyatra.
Apart from discussing the poll strategy, the parties are also focusing on candidate selection ahead of announcement of election dates.
While AAP has announced candidates for 20 of the 182 Assembly seats, the Congress has formed panels to shortlist candidates in the state.
Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said the party campaign is in full swing and the candidates will be declared soon.
AAP is busy strengthening its grassroots organisation to take on the BJP in the state.
Kejriwal has anchored his party’s campaign around a slew of sops like 300 units of free electricity per month, free education in government schools, unemployment dole, Rs 1,000 allowance to women and monthly stipend to new lawyers.
Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar last week visited the state and met state officials and representatives of political parties. He reviewed the preparedness of the state administration for conducting the elections.
Political parties are also undertaking an extensive advertisement campaign in mainstream and social media. The state administration is also in the process of putting in place a mechanism to conduct the polls smoothly.