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Gujarat polls

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17 December, 2012

IE reports:

In a repeat of the record turnout in the first phase, the second phase of Gujarat Assembly elections today saw 70 per cent polling in the toughest electoral test for Chief Minister Narendra Modi who is seeking a third term.

Counting of votes will be taken up on Thursday with the massive turnout being a subject of intense speculation on which party would benefit.

An Election Commission official here said an estimated 70 per cent cast their ballots in the second and final phase.

13 December, 2012

The Hindu reported:

“Approximately 67 per cent voting has taken place in the phase one of the state elections,” Additional chief electoral officer Sanjiv Kumar said in Ahmedabad.

The second phase will be held on December 17 while the counting of votes will be taken up on December 20.

Thursday’s voter turnout is the highest in the elections held so far in Gujarat.

The highest polling recorded earlier was 63.70 per in 1967 elections. In 2007, the voter turnout was 59.77 per cent.

HT says about the beginning of the state elections in Gujarat:

The polling will take place in 48 constituencies in 7 districts of Saurashtra, on 35 seats in five districts of southern Gujarat and on four in Ahmedabad District.

Fourth-eight seats in Surendranagar, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Porbandar, Jamnagar, Amreli and Bhavnagar are considered very crucial and decisive as political observers are watching keenly on how former chief minister and ‘bete noir’ of chief minister Narendra Modi, Keshubhai Patel factor plays out in the region.

On Thursday, voters will also decide the fate of many state political big-wigs who are contesting elections like Keshubhai Patel, assembly speaker Ganpat Vasava, Gujarat BJP president RC Faldu, state Congress president Arjun Modhwadia and leader of opposition Shaktisinh Gohil.

State ministers like Vajubhai Vala, Vasuben Trivedi, Narottam Patel, Mangubhai Patel, Purshottam Solanki, Kiritsinh Rana, Dilip Sanghani, Kanubhai Bhalala, Mohan Kundaria and Ranjit Gilitvala will also be awaiting their fate following Thursday’s voting.

For this phase, BJP has fielded candidates on all 87 seats going to the poll, whereas Congress is contesting on 84 and GPP on 83.

Apart from these three major parties, there are total 26 political parties and 383 independents in the fray, which include BJP rebel and sitting MLA Kanubhai Kalsaria, who has formed a new forum – Sadbhavna Manch – and fielded six candidates.

Out of total 1,81,77,953 voters there are 95,75,278 male, 86,02,557 female and 118 other voters are likely to exercise their franchise.

As Gujarat goes to the polls, the Hindu wonders at the contradictions in Gujarat:

Returning to Gujarat five years later, I’m struck by the far wider rich-poor gulf. Ahmedabad exemplifies Shining Gujarat, with showrooms and shopping plazas to rival the best in Europe. The beautified Sabarmati Riverfront is a captivating sight that is the regime’s newest pride. Happy stories greet the visiting journalist on the mofussil stops along the super highway from the State Capital to Rajkot in Saurashtra. “Narendrabhai, Narendrabhai” chant little children as their parents gush about the rewards of having Modi as Chief Minister: uninterrupted power supply, adequate water, pucca roads, houses, strife and fear-free environment and, above all, a leader who fans the fires of Gujarati asmita (identity) . At Sangani in Chotila, Sarpanch Waghabhai Danabhai describes Modi as a God-send to Gujarat. Next door, Bharatbhai, who is unemployed, gives Modi 130 seats, up 13 from 2007, and insists that after this election, he would be unstoppable on the road to Delhi and Prime Ministership. Bharatbhai is unbothered by his own jobless state.

Off the highway into rural Saurashtra, the narrative changes gradually, yet dramatically — from striking prosperity and raging Modi-mania to poorer habitations and robust Modi-bashing. This is also Keshubhai country. The BJP veteran and now leader of the Gujarat Parivartan Party, had sided with the Congress in 2007 only for his dream to go up in smoke. His Leva Patel community preferred Modi to the Congress. Now his hope is that the GPP will tap into the anger which had no outlet then.

Indeed, in the deeper interiors the shine entirely comes off Gujarat’s magnificent bijli, paani, sadak (power, water, roads) story, told and retold by Modi, and magnified online and offline by his manic fan clubs. Patchy and potholed roads are quite the norm here. The villages here could be from impoverished Uttar Pradesh, judging by the dusty, arid landscape, rundown homes, dark, dank shops, and turbaned men sitting around in groups, their foreheads creased in anxiety over the persistent drought conditions and what that means for their cotton crop. The luckier villages here get water once in three days for 15-odd minutes, others wait up to a week or more. Modi has promised a massive irrigation project for the region but what looms large for now is acute water scarcity made worse by reduced job prospects and runaway prices of essentials.

So why do media sources expect Modi to keep winning? The only answer the article presents in charisma, and a comparison with Indira Gandhi:

India was Indira and Indira was India. But in Gujarat today, every Gujarati is Modi. Or so you are told by Modi himself. His blog, narendramodi.in, says: “In the by lanes of Gujarat’s towns and cities, on the fields of Gujarat, on the coasts of Gujarat, people [are] taking pride in saying one thing — Hoon to Modi No Manas Chu [I am Modi’s person!]” No BJP here. Only Modi.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

December 13, 2012 at 8:12 am

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