Voting for the second phase of the crucial Gujarat Assembly polls will be held on Thursday after the high-voltage campaign witnessed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi leading the electioneering for their parties.
A total of 851 candidates are in the fray for 93 seats spread across 14 districts in north and central Gujarat, in the final phase of the polls, where 2.22 crore people are eligible to exercise their franchise.
Prominent candidates in the fray for tomorrow's battle include state deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, who is contesting from Mehsana against Jivabhai Patel of Congress.
Alpesh Thakor, who joined the Congress, is seeking election from Radhanpur constituency. Lavingji Thakor of the BJP is contesting against him.
Vadgam SC seat is another key constituency from where independent candidate Jignesh Mevani is fighting the election on Congress support against BJP's Vijay Chakravarti.
In Maninagar, the constituency once represented by PM 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.
In its bid to form a caste bloc against the BJP, the Congress has won over Hardik Patel, Thakor and Mevani, who have emerged as the young Turks representing the Patidars, OBCs and Dalits respectively.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP patriarch L K Advani and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley are among the saffron heavyweights expected to exercise their franchise in the second and final phase of Gujarat elections tomorrow.
Modi will cast his vote at Sabarmati Assembly constituency, Advani is expected to exercise his franchise at Jamalpur-Khadia seat and Jaitley in Vejalpur constituency, all located in Ahmedabad, a party release said.
Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel will vote at Kadi constituency in Mehsana district, the release said.
The elections, being viewed as precursor to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, are a prestige battle for Modi, who helmed the campaign for the ruling BJP in his home state, and a litmus test for Gandhi, who spearheaded the campaign for the Congress.
The electioneering for the second phase concluded yesterday after Modi took a seaplane ride from the Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad to Dharoi Dam in north Gujarat, and returned after offering prayers at the famous Ambaji Temple and holding a road show.
On the concluding day of the campaign, Gandhi told reporters that there was "tremendous undercurrent" against the ruling BJP in Gujarat and predicted a victory for his party in the Assembly polls. He claimed that "public mood" had undergone a radical change with all sections of society angry with the saffron party.
In the final stages of the electioneering, Modi set off a political firestorm after he alleged during a rally in Palanpur that Pakistan was trying to influence the Gujarat polls. He claimed that some Pakistani officials and former prime minister Manmohan Singh met a day before Mani Shankar Aiyar made the "neech aadmi" jibe against him.
However, the next day Manmohan Singh asked Modi to apologise to the nation for his remarks.
Earlier, at a rally in Bhabhar town in Banaskantha district in north Gujarat, Modi accused Aiyar of giving "supari" (contract) while on a visit to Pakistan to get him "removed" from the way to ensure peace between India and the neighbouring country.
This came a after Aiyar called Modi a "neech kism ka aadmi" (lowly man).