After a record turnout of 71 per cent during the first phase of elections, all eyes are set on the second phase polling on Monday for the remaining 95 of the 182-seat assembly, where Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is also seeking third term.
Political parties be it the BJP, Congress or the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP), all are making appeals to voters to vote in huge numbers.
Nearly 19.9 million eligible voters would decided the fate of 820 candidates including the Gujarat Chief Minister whose Congress oponent is Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt. There are 49 women candidates in fray on this phase as against 46 in the first phase.
The second phase of election is spread over 12 districts covering North, Central and Kutch regions, with 10.3 million male and 9.5 million female voters. There are 23,318 polling booths installed across the 95 constituencies (six in Kutch, 27 in North Gujarat and 62 in Central Gujarat) with 7256 micro observers keeping a watch to ensure smooth polling.
In the entire exercise 1.6 lakh state government employees would engaged, state election commission said on Sunday. Local state police and central paramilitary forces have been deployed at all the polling booths. Additional security forces have been stations in sensitive areas identified by the election Commission. Counting of votes will be taken up on December 20. The BJP has fielded candidates for all 95 seats, Congress candidates are contesting from 92 seats while NCP is contesting on three seats as part of pre-poll alliance with Congress. The Keshubhai Patel headed Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) and BSP has fielded 84 each. There are 284 independent candidates while 181 candidates are from other parties.
Besides, Modi who is seeking mandate for the third consecutive term, a number of close aides of the chief minister are in fray in the second phase. This include revenue minister Anandi Patel, industries minister Saurabh Patel and former minister of state for home Amit Shah, who is facing charges of murder, extortion and suppression of evidence in two fake police encounter cases.
The second phase polling assumes significance as, after the 70.75 per cent voting in first phase, it will decided the electoral fate of 18 ministers from the Modi cabinet which include six cabinet rank minister. Revenue minister Anandi Patel faces Ramesh Dudhwala of Congress in Patel strong hold Ghatlodia seat in Ahmedabad. While Amit Shah has Dr Jitu Patel as his nearest rival from the Congress.
Government spokesperson and health minister Jaynarayan Vyas who is contesting from Siddhpur seat in Patan district will face Balvantsinh Rajput of Congress. The most vocal minister of the Modi cabinet Nitin Patel will seek mandate from Mehsana seat and is fighting Congress's Natwarlal Patel. Nitin Patel hold the water resources and urban development portfolio.
Social justice and Empowerment minister Fakirbhai Vaghela is contesting from Modi's home town Vadgam, a reserved seat for SC, in Mehsana. He will be facing Manibhai Vaghela of Congress. Another high profile minister of the state government Saurabh Patel is contesting from Akota in Vadodara. Patel who previously was elected from Botad in Bhavnagar is now seeking mandate from Akota in Vadodara. Other BJP ministers in fray inlcude Vana Ahir from Anjar, Parbatsinh Patel (Tharad), Liladhar Vaghela (Deesa), Praful Patel (Himmatnagar), Ramanlal Vora (Ider), Jaysinh Chauhan (Prantij), Pradipsinh Jadeja (Vatva), Jaydrathsinh Parmar (Halol) and Jashwantsinh Bhabhor (Limkheda).
Unusual entry into state politics this time is Jagruti Pandya, wife of slain BJP leader Haren Pandya. Jagruti is contesting on a GPP ticket from Ellibridge constituency which has been a BJP strong hold since last 15 years.