Gujarat goes to poll on Apr 30, campaigning reaches its crescendo
With national leaders descending on the home turf of BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, campaigning for 26 Lok Sabha constituencies in Gujarat is reaching its crescendo as the state is gearing up for the April 30 polls.
The campaigning in the BJP-ruled state has gained momentum with Mr Modi and Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi addressing a series of rallies across the state.
Banking on Mr Modi's charisma and development plank, the BJP aiming at winning all the 26 seats while the Congress is hoping to improve its tally of 2009 general elections.
While the BJP had won 15 and the Congress 11 in the last general elections, the ruling party won two bypolls to the Lok Sabha, taking its number to 17 seats.
Mr Modi, who is making his maiden bid for Parliament, is contesting from two seats -- Vadodara in Gujarat and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
The Vadodara Lok Sabha constituency seems a cakewalk for the Gujarat Chief Minister even as the Congress has fielded its election strategist Madhusudan Mistry, who guided the party to victory in Karnataka Assembly elections last year.
Mr Modi looks all set to win the seat as the contest here was only a matter of victory margin. Besides his development plank, Mr Modi is also likely to get a huge margin of votes riding on Gujarati pride that a Gujarati person is the BJP's PM nominee.
Another high profile constituency in the state was capital Gandhinagar where BJP veteran leader L K Advani is contesting the general elections for the sixth time.
Gandhinagar is witnessing a fight between Mr Advani and Congress' Kirit Patel, who is considered to be a lightweight candidate against the veteran leader of the state's ruling party.
North Gujarat has five Lok Sabha constituencies -- the state capital Gandhinagar, Mehsana, Patan, Banaskantha and
Patan is a reserved seat where ruling BJP has fielded Liladhar Vaghela while the Congress has deployed old guard Bhavsinh Rathod, who has switched over to the Congress from the saffron party.
Bhavsinh Rathod had contested the Patan seat last time on a BJP ticket but lost to Congress's Jagdish Thakor.
Mehsana was one of the two seats that the BJP had won in 1984 in the country. BJP's Jayashri Patel is facing Congress' Jivabhai Patel at the seat.
Jayashri Patel had defeated Jivabhai Patel in 2009, who was then a sitting Congress MP from Mehsana.
Banaskantha witnesses a keen contest between two Chaudhary candidates -- BJP's Hari Chaudhary and Congress' Joita Chaudhary, who is sitting MLA from Dhanera seat.
From Sabarkantha, the constituency dotted by Arvalli hills and dominated by tribals, the Congress has fielded its senior leader Shankersinh Vaghela, who is also Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly.
The BJP has fielded Dipsinh Rathod, who is considered a lightweight in comparison to Congress stalwart Mr Vaghela.
In Saurashtra the Congress had won four out of eight Lok
Sabha seats and improved its tally in others in 2009 general elections.
Rajkot was one of the seats wrested by the Congress from the BJP in 2009.
While the Congress has repeated its sitting MP Kuverji Bavalia this time too, the BJP has deployed its sitting MLA from Tankara Mohan Kundaria.
Porbandar constituency was won by the Congress in 2009, but its sitting MP Vitthal Radadia quit the party to join the BJP, who contested the bypolls last year and won the Porbandar seat again for the saffron party.
Mr Radadia is facing a challenge by Congress-NCP combine's Kandhal Jadeja.
Jamnagar was considered a secure seat for two terms till 2004 by the BJP but thereafter it became a Congress bastion. Congress candidate Vikram Madam has been winning the seat since 2004.
The BJP has fielded its sitting MLA from Jamnagar Poonam Madam, the niece of Vikram Madam.
Bhavnagar constituency is considered a BJP bastion. The BJP has denied a ticket to its sitting MP Rajendrasinh Rana, who has been winning for last five terms and fielded its sitting MLA from Talaja Bhartiben Shiyal.
The Congress too has decided to field its sitting MLA from Palitana Pravin Rathod from Bhavnagar.
In 2009, BJP's Dinu Solanki won the election from Junagadh but he was arrested by the CBI last year in connection with the murder of RTI activist Amit Jethva.
The BJP decided against repeating him and gave ticket to its sitting Mangrol MLA Rajesh Chudasama who is a Koli. To counter Mr Chudasama, the Congress has fielded its sitting MLA from Una Punjabhai Vansh who too is a Koli.
The Amreli constituency is dominated by the Leua Patels and Kolis.
Congress candidate Virji Thumer sprung up a surprise when he defeated senior BJP leader and a Cabinet Minister in the Modi government Dilip Sanghani in Lok Sabha polls in 2004.
The BJP has deployed its sitting MP Naran Kacchadia. Mr Thumer was twice elected to state Assembly before he won Lok Sabha polls in 2004. The Congress denied him a ticket in 2009 when he was accused of cheating.
The Congress gave a ticket to his wife instead, which gave a chance to Naran Kachchadia to enter Parliament.
(Posted on 27-04-2014)