Thursday, December 12, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Day of reckoning for BJP, Cong
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

Paramilitary troopers patrol a street of Ahmedabad on the eve of polling.
— R
euters photo

Ahmedabad, December 11
The day of reckoning for the two main political parties fighting for the hot seat in Gandhinagar has arrived with the authorities here making adequate security arrangements for the smooth conduct of polling from tomorrow.

Both BJP and the Congress are confident that their campaigning has been successful and would be voted to power by the five crore population of this state which has seen many disturbances in the past few years.

There are several important constituencies which feature not only the caretaker Chief Minister Narendra Modi but a large number of former Chief Ministers. From Rajkot to Bhuj to Gandhinagar to Godhra and to Maninagar and Ellisbridge in Ahmedabad itself, all constituencies have their own importance in these elections.

There is a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress in most of the seats but some of the Independents and newly formed local parties can prove to be the “spoilers” and may eventually hold the key to power.

Having finished their campaigns on aggressive notes, with Mr Modi harping not only on religion but also Pakistan, the two parties are now concentrating on ensuring a good turnout of their supporters tomorrow. Besides, the two are also concentrating on better booth management, which they feel would be essential for victory.

In this the BJP could actually have an upper hand as RSS and VHP workers have been assigned the task of ensuring that none of their supporters stay home. They would be active in drawing the voters from the majority community to the booths.

As for who is likely to emerge as a victor, not even the state intelligence is giving a positive report in favour of either of the parties. In a report last evening the intelligence agencies alluded to a neck-and-neck fight between the BJP and the Congress.

However, there is a rider to this. There is a clear indication that the voter this time has not really given out his mind to anyone. Which way the results go, will be clear after the results are out and can be a surprise.

Although the official campaigning is over, the two parties are still engaged in quiet campaigning mostly through door-to-door contacts. The parties know that neither of them have actually been able to build a wave in their favour.

Both are also depending heavily on the caste factor and have accordingly distributed seats to candidates based on the caste stronghold.

Incidentally, the presence of crowds in the rallies of the two parties cannot be considered as a benchmark for the results. Both parties have been able to attract big crowds at their rallies and evoked response from the people on the issues they have raised.

While the Congress is depending heavily on the Saurashtra region, the BJP has a clear advantage in the tribal pocket of south Gujarat. Traditionally the tribal belt of the Saurashtra has been the stronghold of Congress but the BJP has been able to get a hold now.

It would also be interesting to see whether or not the BJP has been able to polarise the population in Saurashtra. If that happens, the Congress could be in trouble.

Both Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Congress campaign spearhead (Congress is not ready to name anyone as its chief ministerial candidate) Shankarsinh Vaghela have been concentrating hard on the 32 seats of north Gujarat.

After Saurashtra, it is North Gujarat that the Congress is hoping to make some gains after having been completely rejected by the voters in 1998. The BJP had emerged victorious in 24 seats. Depending heavily on the Hindutva factor the BJP hopes to retain its hold on the urban areas here.

Central Gujarat is another place where there could be an equal fight. The BJP is hoping to make some inroads into this region like the Congress in north Gujarat. This region had provided the Congress with almost half its 63 seats in the last assembly elections but it is possible that it is not able to maintain the tally of 26 out of the 43 seats in the region.

In Ahmedabad itself, the position is not clear. Riding on the Hindutva wave the BJP had swept the region here and romped home in 14 out of the 20 seats. But this time around after facing the brunt of the violence in the aftermath of the Godhra incident, the situation could be different.

The business community here is not very happy with the sequence of events in the past few months. The community which looks at the profit it has had at the end of the day has not had any business over the past eight months and are cut off with the BJP for such a situation.

However, the greatest psephologist could actually turn out to be the “satta bazaar” which has been predicting slow and steady gains for the Congress. As of this evening the Mumbai ‘satta’ operators were putting the stakes on a narrow victory margin for the BJP with the Congress not very far behind. While the number being quoted for the BJP is between 85 and 95 seats, for the Congress it is between 80 and 90 seats.


Foreign observers for Gujarat
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

Ahmedabad, December 11
Whether it is campaign, media or Opposition management, BJP managers here have left no stone unturned to ensure that there is not a single last minute hitch in ensuring victory for the ruling party in the Assembly elections fixed for tomorrow.

Hit hard by the Cooperative Banks scam, where almost 40 banks so far have closed shop and over Rs 6000 crore of the common man’s hard earned savings has gone missing, some of the victims had planned a press conference here today to put forth not only their views but also the level of apathy they had been facing at the hands of the Modi government in their attempt to recover their money.

And for this they had managed to get the backing of a senior film-maker who is also known to take up social causes.

With the state intelligence agencies working overtime for the ruling party, information regarding the press conference reached the managers of the party yesterday evening after the All-Gujarat Coop Banks Depositors Association distributed invitations.

By late evening, the association people got a call from the film-maker that he would not be joining them as he had been dissuaded by the people concerned not to be part of such a campaign. The managers clearly told the film-maker that it was a political forum of the Opposition whereas the association was fighting its lone battle.

The film-maker fax a letter of apology for his inability to make it for the press conference due to pressing personal reasons. * * *

While the BJP went about roping in film stars for campaigning, the other main political party — the Congress — also had stars coming forward to espouse its cause in Gujarat.

However, one person who assumed the star status recently, following the performance of his party in the Jammu and Kashmir elections took everyone by surprise here. Chief of Panthers Party Bhim Singh was a surprise element.

* * *

After being present in the elections in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir, foreign observers will also be doing the rounds tomorrow in this equally disturbed state.

The Election Commission has allowed foreign delegates from seven nations, including the USA, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the European Union to observe polling.


What the opinion polls says

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