Gujarat, HP counting today; entire nation awaits verdict
Ahmedabad/ Shimla: The counting of votes will be held on Monday for the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, considered a prestige battle for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his home state (Gujarat) and a baptism by fire for the 132-year-old Congress party's new President Rahul Gandhi. While the BJP is seeking a sixth straight term in office in Gujarat, the Congress is aiming to stage a comeback to power after being in the Opposition for over two decades.
The results are expected to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Parliamentary polls, too, as Modi had massively flaunted his 'Gujarat model of economic development ' to come to power at the Centre in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Counting of votes in Gujarat will be held at 37 centres across 33 districts, amidst tight security.
In Himachal Pradesh, the fate of 337 candidates, including Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, and his predecessor Prem Kumar Dhumal, too, will be known on Monday as counting of votes is taken up where traditional rivals BJP and Congress have contested all 68 seats. The hill state witnessed a record 75.28 per cent turnout and pollsters have predicted a BJP vitory.
Adequate security arrangements have been made for counting which would start simultaneously in all 68 constituencies at 42 counting centres. Corruption was the main focus of the BJP campaign with the party training its guns at Chief Minister Singh while the Congress hit out at the BJP over the issue of GST and demonetisation.
Campaigning in Gujarat was extremely acrimonious and both the main political parties indulged in no-holds-barred attacks on each other — with the exchanges often degenerating into frequent uncharitable personal slandering matches.
During the campaign, Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah trained guns on the Congress on issues like the Ram Temple, alleged Pakistani interference in the Gujarat polls and (suspended Congress leader) Mani Shankar Aiyar's distasteful remarks. Gandhi persistently attacked Modi and the BJP for "not talking about the future of Gujarat" and skipping the crucial economic and social issues being faced by the people of the state.
The Congress also managed to stitch a broad strategic social
coalition with prominent Patidar, OBC, and Dalit leaders — Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jigesh Mevani — in its bid to challenge the BJP's over-two-decade hold on power. The influential Patidar community, which accounts for 12 per cent of the state's population, may prove to be a decisive factor in the polls in which Patel pledged support to the Congress and appealed to people to "uproot the BJP" this time.