National

Voting begins for second phase of Gujarat assembly elections

Ahmedabad: Voting for the second and final phase of Gujarat assembly elections began today on 93 seats of North and Central Gujarat.

After an acrimonious campaign, around 2.22 crore voters would be exercising their franchise to choose between the two main contenders, the BJP and the Congress.

A total of 851 candidates are in the fray for the second phase.

Prominent candidates in the fray for today's battle include state deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, who is contesting from Mehsana, Alpesh Thakor (Radhanpur), and Jignesh Mevani (Vadgam).

In Maninagar, the constituency once represented by Prime Minister Naredra Modi, Congress has given ticket to foreign- educated young face Sweta Bhrambhatt against BJP's sitting MLA Suresh Patel. Modi had vacated the constituency after becoming the PM in 2014.

The first phase of voting for the 182-member house, held on December 9, covered 89 seats.

The election is being seen as a "prestige battle" for Prime Minister Modi and a litmus test for the leadership of Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi.

The battlefield Gujarat which witnessed a vitriolic campaign goes into the decisive phase today, in the elections being viewed as precursor to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The influential Patidar community, which accounts for around 12 per cent of the state's population, could prove to be the 'X factor' in the polls. Patidar quota warrior Hardik Patel has pledged support to the Congress and appealed to the people to "uproot the BJP" this time.

The campaign shaped up as a duel between Modi and Gandhi, and often turned personal.

Gandhi emerged as the Congress' pivot to take on the might of the prime minister on his home turf.

In the 2012 assembly polls, the BJP had won 115 seats, while the Congress bagged 61. The counting of votes will be taken up on December 18. PTI

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