- Vijay Rupani is contesting from Rajkot-West
- His main challenger is Congress’ Indranil Rajyaguru
- The BJP has won in Rajkot-West since 1985
RAJKOT, GUJARAT: Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani was among the early voters as polling began in 89 of state’s 182 assembly constituencies in the first phase. Mr. Rupani, who visited a temple in Rajkot before casting vote this morning, claimed an easy win for his party the BJP and said there is “no challenge” for him.
Mr. Rupani is contesting from Rajkot-West, said to be a “safe” seat for the ruling BJP which has been representing it since 1985. He is facing a challenger in Congress’ Indranil Rajyaguru.
Though Rajkot-West is a stronghold of the BJP, the Congress has put up a strong challenge by bringing in Mr. Rajyaguru, the sitting lawmaker from Rajkot-East, to rework the caste combination in the party’s favor. To retain his seat, Mr. Rupani needs the support of the powerful Patidars and the trading community which dominate the region. The traders are upset over demonetization and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
After Hardik Patel, 24-year-old Patidar leader extended his support to the Congress, the opposition party hopes to reverse the trend the way the Patidar community will vote in this year – they have for years been staunch supporters of the BJP. The Congress will attempt to harness the Patel anger against the BJP government for refusing to meet their demand for reservation in government colleges and jobs.
PM Modi and Rahul Gandhi, who is set be Congress chief, have led their parties in aggressive campaigns in the key state. PM Modi has pitched the Gujarat election as a battle between vikasvaad (development) and vanshvaad (dynasty) in his attacks on Rahul Gandhi, who has been elected unopposed to take over as Congress chief from his mother Sonia Gandhi.
A poll of opinion polls, which aggregates three surveys, shows the BJP retaining Gujarat but by a smaller margin than last time.
The 182-member Gujarat Assembly polls in two phases — on December 9 and 14 — and the counting of votes will be taken up on December 18.
(With inputs from PTI)