Modi, Rahul sweat it out on the last day of campaign on Saturday
Gujarat goes to the polls in the second and final phase on Monday in the backdrop of a huge turnout in the first round of polling, even as the Opposition Congress tried to make the most of the last day of campaigning on Saturday.
Monday’s voting in 95 constituencies would decide the fate of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is facing Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended IPS official Sanjiv Bhatt, as well as that of several BJP and Congress bigwigs and Ministers. There are as many as 1.98 crore eligible voters.
The polling will take place in central and north Gujarat, where as many as 820 candidates, including 95 from the BJP, 92 from the Congress and 84 from Keshubhai Patel’s Gujarat Parivartan Party, are in the fray. There are 49 women contestants.
Analysts say Mr. Modi is seeking to recover the BJP’s possible losses in Saurashtra and in tribal regions in South Gujarat by netting votes in central Gujarat. Several of the 52 seats in central Gujarat fall in the tribal region and are conventional Congress strongholds but Mr. Modi launched welfare schemes worth Rs. 14,000 crore in the tribal belt which stretches from Ambaji in the north touching Rajasthan and goes past Dahod on the Madhya Pradesh border up to Saputara, a kissing distance away from Maharashtra. The last day of campaign in central and north Gujarat as well as Kutch saw Mr. Modi and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi sweating it out, while Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari and a host of others too joined the campaign.
Mr. Modi raised the Sir Creek issue again and claimed that as he had predicted, a Pakistani delegation reached New Delhi on Saturday. He demanded that the Centre must clarify whether it would discuss the issue of Sir Creek with Pakistan.
He said the Centre had no strength to counter Pakistan which was evident from the fact that a Minister from the neighbouring country Rehman Malik could dare equate the 26/11 Mumbai attacks with the Babri masjid demolition. at Ayodhya.
Mr. Modi alleged that the Union government wanted to go ahead with its plan on Sir Creek behind the heat and dust of the Gujarat election. “If you want you stop the election, you could do it, but I won’t keep quiet when it comes to national interest,” he said.
Mr. Rahul Gandhi would not respond to any of it, but targeted the Chief Minister for his “politics of anger” and said it was time the people of the State switched to the power of love preached by Mahatma Gandhi.
He reiterated without naming Mr. Modi that in Gujarat, “Common people’s dreams are not looked at, it is just one man's dream that prevails and he is doing politics of anger.”
“This one man claims to run Gujarat and having changed the entire State is full of anger, and with anger the State cannot progress ahead,” Mr. Gandhi said, addressing a rally in Bhuj.
He said, “It was love of the people” that could help the State progress and not anger. “This State can progress only with love, a path shown by Mahatma Gandhiji,” Mr. Rahul said, exhorting the voters to look for change.
“Two out of four people who mattered the most to me in my life were snatched away by terrorists. When my grandmother and father died, I had a lot of angst in me,” he said.
“What does anger do? It turns a person blind. I was like a blind man, but when I kept my anger aside I saw things more clearly. I don't have one bit of anger today in me,” Mr. Gandhi said.
The Congress leader said: “Your Chief Minister who talks about anger is wrong, you are full of love and there should be a government which has love.”