Ahmedabad: The second and final phase of voting for the Gujarat Assembly elections was held on Monday in 93 constituencies across 14 districts in the central and north regions of the state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also cast his vote here, today morning. He arrived at a polling station at Nishan High School in Ranip area at 9.30 am and stood in a queue for a while to vote.
In the second phase, 833 candidates are in the fray from 61 political parties, including the BJP, the Congress and the new poll entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The candidates also include 285 independents, as per the state election body.
The BJP and the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP are contesting in all the 93 seats. The Congress is contesting in 90 seats and its alliance partner Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has fielded candidates in two seats.
As in the first phase, there are certain crucial seats that could impact the outcome of the election. Hot sets to keep a watch are:
Maninagar: This urban constituency in Ahmedabad city has been a BJP bastion since the 1990s thanks to high concentration of urban Hindu voters. Narendra Modi had won from Maninagar when he was Gujarat chief minister. The seat is currently held by BJP's Suresh Patel. BJP has fielded Ahmedabad civic body leader Amul Bhatt.
Ghatlodia: This is an urban seat in Ahmedabad city. It has a sizable number of Patidar voters and has elected two legislators who went on to become chief ministers - the current chief Bhupendra Patel and Anandiben Patel. Bhupendra Patel had won with a margin of 1.17 lakh votes despite the anger among Patidar voters following the Hardik Patel-led quota agitation.
Rajkot West: Narendra Modi won this seat in February 2002 after becoming chief minister for the first time in October 2001. BJP veteran Vajubhai Vala represented this seat for six terms between 1980 and 2007. He vacated it for Modi in 2002. The 2017 contest turned interesting after Indranil Rajguru, then Congress MLA from Rajkot-East, announced he would take on Vijay Rupani instead of contesting from his 'safe seat'. Rajguru lost and after a short stint with the Aam Aadmi Party, he has rejoinedCongress which has nominated him from Rajkot East seat. In Rajkot West, Congress has filed Mansukh Kalaria against BJP’s Dr Darshita Shah, former deputy mayor of Rajkot and daughter of a veteran RSS leader.
Bhavnagar Rural: BJP strongman and Koli leader Purshottam Solanki has been winning from here since 2012. He is seeking sixth term on a BJP ticket. He has significant clout in his community.
Vadgam (SC): Young Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani won as an Independent from here in 2017 with Congress support. Vadgam in Banaskantha district, a seat reserved for Scheduled Castes, has a 16.2 per cent Dalit and 25.3 per cent Muslim population. Mevani faces a tough contest to retain his seat as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Asaduddin Owaisi’s party, are also in the fray apart from Congress' main rival the BJP, which is fielding Manilal Vaghela, a former Congress leader from the seat.
AAP' candidate is popular Dalit activist Dalpat Bhatiya.
Radhanpur: OBC leader Alpesh Thakor won on a Congress ticket in 2017 but resigned in 2019 to join BJP. He lost to Congress' Raghu Desai in the bypoll. However, Thakor is contesting from Gandhinagar South seat this time on a BJP ticket.
Chhota Udepur: It is a battle between two political families in the tribal belt. Rajendrasinh Rathwa, son of 11-time MLA Congress Mohansinh Rathwa who recently joined BJP, has been fielded by BJP in Chhota Udepur constituency while Congress has given ticket to Sangramsinh Rathwa – son of former junior railway minister Naransinh.
Manjalpur: The BJP made an exception in its age limit for candidates when it declared the name of sitting MLA Yogesh Patel (76) from the Manjalpur constituency. The BJP declared Patel’s name only on the last day of filing nomination. Patel was insisting on a ticket amidst speculation that the party was not too keen on it. Patel is facing dentist Dr Tashwin Singh from the Congress. AAP has put up Vinay Chauhan on the seat.
Godhra: The epicentre of 2002 Gujarat riots will witness an intense battle this time around. The two traditional rivals Congress and BJP are being challenged by AIMIM and AAP. The Congress fears that AIMIM may eat into its traditional minority votes. Sitting BJP MLA C K Raulji is in the fray here against Rashmita Chauhan from the Congress. AIMIM has fielded Mufti Hasan Kachaba while AAP has given a ticket to Rajesh Patel. Besides minority community votes, the key factor in the constituency will be the OBC votes.
Anklav: Stakes are high for Congress and BJP at Anklav assembly seat in Anand district from where former GPCC chief Amit Chavda, a two term MLA, is contesting again. Chavda is grandson of Congress veteran and five-term Anand MP late IshwarChavda and cousin of former GPCC chief Bharat Solanki, son of former Gujarat chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki.
BJP has fielded a new face Gulabsinh Padhiyar on this seat.
Waghodiya: Sitting MLA Madhu Shrivastava is contesting as an independent after BJP denied him a ticket. However, another independent Dharmendrasinh Waghela is getting surprisingly a good response. Denied ticket in 2017 by BJP, he contested as an independent and finished second. BJP has given the mandate to Vadodara district party president Ashwin Patel, veteran Satyajitsinh Gaekwad is contesting on the Congress ticket.
Jamnagar North: Cricketer Ravindra Jadeja’s wife Rivaba Jadeja will be contesting her first election from the Jamnagar North seat on a BJP ticket. She is pitted against Bipendrasinh Jadeja of Congress. Bipendrasinh is president of the Jamnagar Chamber of Commerce and Industry. However, besides Bipendrasinh, Rivaba faces opposition in her own family. Her sister-in-law (Ravindra’s sister) is a Congress member and is campaigning against her. Rivaba’s father-in-law (Ravindra’s father) is also supporting the Congress candidates. For accommodating Rivaba, BJP denied a ticket to sitting MLA Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, a Congress turncoat who joined BJP before 2017 assembly election.
Khambhalia: AAP’s chief ministerial candidate Isudan Gadhvi is contesting from Khambhalia seat in Devbhumi Dwarka district. It is going to be a triangular contest with Congress repeating incumbent MLA Vikram Madam and BJP nominating MuluBera, who had lost in 2012 from Jamnagar North seat. This is the first electoral battle of Gadhvi, a journalist turned politician. With AAP nominating Gadhvi as its CM candidate, the stakes for the Arvind Kejriwal-headed party are very high. However, considering the caste equation in the constituency, the numbers do not favour Gadhvi as the majority of voters belong to Madam’s Ahir community.
Morbi: BJP has nominated former MLA Kanti Amrutiya, whose video of jumping to Machhchu river to save people after British-era bridge collapse, had gone viral. As many as 135 people had died in the incident. BJP denied ticket to sitting MLA Brijesh Merja, another Congress turncoat who joined the saffron party in 2019. Amrutiya who had lost against Merja (then in Congress) in 2017, will face Congress’s Jayanti Patel. He had lost the last four elections from the same seat.
Katargam: The political fight in Diamond polishing hub of Katargam has become more interesting with AAP Gujarat chief Gopal Italia contesting from the seat. He is pitted against BJP minister Vinod Moradiya, a three-time municipal councillor. Both Italia and Moradiya belong to the Patidar community. However, the Congress has fielded Kalpesh Variya from the Prajapati community. Katargam was at the epicentre of the Patidar quota aggitationin 2015. The constituency houses some of the biggest diamond cutting and polishing companies. AAP had made inroads into state politics from Surat when it won 27 seats in the 2021 civic body elections.
A total 2.51 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise for the second phase of elections, including 1.29 crore men and 1.22 crore women. There are 5.96 lakh voters in the age group of 18 to 19 years, according to the Election Commission.