The ruling BJP in Gujarat is aiming for a straight seventh win in Assembly elections in the state, with hours left for counting of votes for elections held on December 1 and 5.
Exit polls have predicted a big majority for the BJP in Gujarat and the saffron party looks set to retain power in the state for the seventh consecutive term and equal Left Front’s feat in West Bengal.
While the contest in Gujarat has traditionally been between the BJP and Congress, it was three-cornered this time around with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) entering the poll arena.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP poll campaign, addressing around 30 rallies and road shows in the state. Union minister Amit Shah was in the state for almost two months, micromanaging the campaign and election strategy for the BJP.
Party president J P Nadda, chief ministers of BJP-ruled states including Yogi Adityanath, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Himanta Biswa Sarma and Pramod Sawant also addressed election rallies in the state.
Almost all the Union ministers of BJP campaigned in the state.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi found time from his Bharat Jodo Yatra to address two rallies in Gujarat. Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot led the party’s campaign in the state. Party chief Mallikarjun Kharge also addressed poll rallies.
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal led an aggressive campaign for AAP, addressing several rallies and holding road shows in the last five months.
The counting of votes will start at 8 am on Thursday at 37 counting centres covering the 182 Assembly seats, Chief Electoral Officer P Bharathi said.
There will be three centres in Ahmedabad, two in Surat and Anand, and one in each of the remaining 30 districts. All necessary preparations for the counting have been done, Bharathi told reporters in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. Altogether 182 counting observers and as many election officers along with 494 assistant election officers will be on duty for the entire counting process, the official said.
A three-tier security system has been ensured at all the counting centres with local police and personnel of State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) and Central Armed Police Force (CAPF), the CEO said.
While counting of postal ballots will be done from 8 am, counting of EVM votes will begin at 8.30 am, Bharathi said. The entire process will be videographed, she added.
The ruling party is expected to win in the range of 117-151 seats, while the Congress was predicted to bag between 16 to 51 seats. The Aam Aadmi Party was projected to bag anything between two and 13 seats. The majority mark in Gujarat is 92.
Polling in Gujarat happened in two phases on December 1 and 5. Voter turnout stood at 64.33 per cent, lower than the 68.39 per cent recorded in the 2017 Assembly elections.
The fate of Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s chief ministerial candidate Isudan Gadhvi, youth leaders Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor, among a total 1,621 candidates will be decided on Thursday.
A total 70 political outfits and 624 independents were in the fray.
Apart from the main rivals BJP, Congress and AAP, 101 candidates from Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and 26 from Bharatiya Tribal party (BTP) also contested.
In the 2017 Assembly polls, BJP won 99 seats and Congress 77 seats, while two seats went to BTP, one to NCP, and three to independents.
Ahead of this month’s elections, the BJP’s number in the House stood at 110 and Congress at 60 after 20 MLAs who won on Congress seats switched over to the BJP in the last five years, three of them quitting just ahead of the elections.
Punjab CM and AAP leader Bhagwant Mann spoke on his party winning the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections, adding it will perform well in Gujarat too.
“The BJP wanted to stop AAP, so it had fielded its entire force on the ground. I will be with you again tomorrow during the Gujarat Assembly polls results. The results will be surprising. The exit polls will prove to be wrong in Gujarat. I will go to the party office and celebrate with the workers,” he said.