Gandhinagar: The high-octane political battle during campaigning in the Gujarat Assembly elections has boiled down to a battle of ballots set to take place in the first phase of polling on Thursday.
The ruling BJP is exuding confidence in retaining the 27-year-long rule in the state, while the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party are looking to cash in on 'anti-incumbency' and issues like inflation and unemployment to get to power.
A total of 788 candidates are in the fray in the first phase of the elections on 89 seats spread across 19 districts of South Gujarat and Kutch-Saurashtra regions. The voting will begin at 8 am on Thursday and end at 5 pm.
As the BJP looks to retain power and AAP aims to make inroads into yet another state, a fierce battle is expected on various seats that will go to poll on Thursday morning.
Jamnagar North (Jamnagar)
The first on the list is Jamnagar North where the battle is between BJP's Rivaba Jadeja, cricketer Ravindra Jadeja's wife, Congress' Bipendrasinh Jadeja and AAP's Karsan Karmur.
The BJP dropped the sitting MLA Dharmendrasinh Merubha who won the seat by defeating Congress candidate Ahir Jivanbhai Karubhai Kumbharvadiya in the 2017 Assembly elections.
The seat came to the limelight after a political tussle between two members of the same family came to the fore with Rivaba, who is making her electoral debut, contesting from the BJP and her sister-in-law and father-in-law campaigning for the Congress candidate.
The second on the list is Morbi, which became a talking point following the tragic incident recently in which a suspension bridge fell into the river claiming the lives of over 130 people.
The BJP has fielded Kantilal Amrutiya, who replaced sitting MLA and Cabinet Minister Brijesh Merja, and he is up against Congress' Jayantilal Jerajbhai Patel and AAP's Pankaj Ransariya.
The Opposition parties, during the campaign, raised the issue of "mismanagement" in the Morbi incident, trying to corner the government on the incident.
However, historically, the BJP has won the Morbi Assembly seat in 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2012 before Amrutiya lost to Merja, who was in Congress in 2017. Merja had joined BJP later and won the by-polls from Morbi again. The BJP has Merja with Amrutiya in 2022.
Khambalia (Devbhoomi Dwarka)
The seat becomes significant as the AAP's chief ministerial candidate Isudan Gadhvi is contesting from this seat where he is confronted by BJP's Mulu Ayar Bera and Congress' Vikram Madam.
The battle is expected to be triangular with a close contest between the BJP and AAP. Congress is said to be strong as the party candidate Ahir Vikrambhai Arjanbhai Madam had won the seat in 2017. Congress has replaced its candidate in the 2022 elections.
Rajkot West (Rajkot)
Rajkot West is the seat where Prime Minister Narendra Modi previously contested a by-poll in 2002. Former chief minister Vijay Rupani had also contested from the seat in the 2017 Assembly elections. The BJP has given a ticket to two-time Deputy Mayor Darshita Shah who is up against AAP's Dinesh Joshi and Congress's Mansukhbhai.
The seat is considered a bastion of the BJP which the party has not lost since 1985.
Rupani had won the seat by defeating Indranil Rajguru of INC with a margin of 53,755 votes in the 2017 Assembly elections.
Pabubha Manek, the BJP candidate who has not lost a single election in the last 32 years, is up against Congress' Malubhai Kandoria, and AAP candidate Nakum Lakhmanbhai Boghabhai.
Manek had won the first three elections as an independent (1990, 95, 98), then joined the Congress and won the seat in 2002. Later, he won the Assembly elections of 2007, 2012 and 2017 on a BJP ticket.
In the 2017 Gujarat Assembly polls, Manek had won the seat by defeating Congress' Ahir Meraman Markhi with a margin of 5,739 votes.
Talala (Gir Somnath)
The BJP has fielded Bhagwan Barad from the seat who is contesting against AAP's Devendra Solanki and Congress' Mansinh Dodiya.
Barad had won the seat in the 2017 Assembly polls. He had resigned as the Congress MLA from Talala Gir Somnath district and had joined the BJP following which he was given a ticket from the same seat. Barad is an influential leader of the Ahir community. He won from the Talala constituency in 2007 and 2017.
The seat is all set to witness an interesting battle this time in which AAP has fielded its state president Gopal Italia who is considered to be an influential Patidar leader, from the constituency. He had played a key role in the Patidar quota agitation in 2015.
He will face off against Congress candidate Kaplesh Variya, who belongs to the Prajapati community (OBC), and BJP candidate Vinodbhai Amrishbhai Mordiya.
A tough battle is expected on the Porbandar seat where the BJP has fielded its sitting MLA and four-time winner Babu Bokhiria once again. He is pitted against Congress candidate Arjun Modhwadia and AAP's Jeevan Jungi.
Bokhiria had won the seat in 1995, 1998, 2012 and 2017. In 2002 and 2007, Bokhiria was defeated by his arch-rival and former Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modhwadia. Both are face-to-face this time too.
Kandhalbhai Jadeja, son of late don Santokben Sarmanbhai Jadeja, is contesting on the Samajwadi Party ticket. He had won the 2017 Assembly elections on the NCP ticket, however, quit the party recently after he was denied a ticket. He is pitted against BJP's Dheliben Odedra, AAP's Bhimabhai Makvana, and Congress' Nathabhai Odedra.
The voting in Gujarat will take place on December 1 and 5, and the counting of votes will be held on December 8.
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