Counting of votes for the Gujarat Assembly polls, considered a prestige battle for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his home state and a litmus test for new Congress president Rahul Gandhi, will start shortly.
The counting will also take place for Himachal Pradesh assembly polls that took place last month.
The results for Gujarat assembly elections are expected amidst bitter campaign followed by serious allegations against the integrity of Election Commission and Eelectronic Voting Machines.
The Congress had astonishingly called the Chief Election Commissioner a private secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. That was after the the poll body headed by Achal Kumar Joti, a former chief secretary to Modi during the latter’s term As Gujarat chief minister, served a notice Rahul for alleged violations of of model code of conduct.
The Congress had accused the EC of biases since it failed to issue any notices to BJP leaders including Modi when they violated the poll code.
The EC, however, had withdrawn the notice against Rahul on Sunday night.
While the BJP is seeking a sixth straight term in office, the Congress is aiming to stage a comeback in power after being in the opposition for over two decades.
The results are expected to have a bearing on the 2019 parliamentary polls also as Modi had come to power in 2014, based on the Gujarat ‘model of development’.
The much-awaited results of the keenly fought elections will be announced tomorrow when the counting of votes will be held at 37 centres across the state’s 33 districts, amidst tight security.
The voting was held following an acrimonious campaign, where both the main political parties indulged in no-holds- barred attacks on each others.
Modi led the campaign for the BJP, while Rahul Gandhi was the pivot of the Congress’ electioneering.
During the campaign, Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah trained guns on the Congress on issues like Ram Temple, alleged Pakistani interference in the Gujarat polls and (suspended Congress leader) Mani Shankar Aiyar’s remarks.
Gandhi persistently attacked Modi and the BJP for “not talking about the future of Gujarat” and skipping key issues being faced by the people of the state.
The Congress also stitched about a broad social coalition with prominent Patidar, OBC, and Dalit leaders – Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jigesh Mevani – in its bid to unseat the BJP in power for over two decades.
Patel led a long agitation of his community for reservation, while Thakor led an counter protest against inclusion of Patidars in the OBC reservation list. Mevani raised his voice against Dalit atrocities.
The influential Patidar community, which accounts for around 12 per cent of the state’s population, could prove to be the ‘X factor’ in the polls in which Patel pledged support to the Congress and appealed to people to “uproot the BJP” this time.
As the campaign was nearing its end, “Vikas” (development) took a back seat, and caste and religious issues received prominence.
The two main rival parties also tried to counter each other on social media, as the Congress and its supporters launched the campaign “Vikas Gando Thayo Che” (development has gone crazy), while the BJP launched a counter drive of “I am development, I am Gujarat”.
(With inputs from PTI)