Campaigning for tomorrow’s high-stakes assembly elections, dubbed as the semi-final before next year’s Lok Sabha polls, ended in Rajasthan and Telangana yesterday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi making a concerted attempt on the last day to win the contest for their parties.
The contest is largely bipolar between the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress for the 200-member Rajasthan Assembly. But it is expected to be triangular, especially in some seats, for the 119-member Telangana Assembly where the Congress has tied up with unlikely rival Telugu Desam Party, Communist Party of India and Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS), a new party floated by M Kodandaram, to form ‘Praja Kutami” (People’s Front).
Kodandaram was once Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s friend in the fight for a separate state.
The campaign in both states has been bitter with personalised attacks by leaders of various parties.
In Rajasthan, the BJP is fighting anti-incumbency to retain power though no party has been repeated after one term in the last 20 years. With poll surveys predicting that the Congress was ahead, the BJP has made persistent efforts over the last few days to shore up its prospects with Modi, the main vote getter for the ruling party, addressing around 12 rallies.
Yesterday, he made a strong attack on Congress over the issue of corruption following the extradition of Christian Michel, a middleman in the controversial AgustaWestland chopper deal, stating that the British national, who has taken Congress leader Sonia Gandhi’s name, will spill the beans on the deal during the Congress Party’s tenure.
BJP president Amit Shah has also been holding road shows and addressing press conferences in Rajasthan. The BJP won 163 seats in Rajasthan in the 2013 elections while the Congress bagged 21.
On the other side, Rahul Gandhi has been on a relentless campaign in both Rajasthan and Telangana. The Congress has not projected a chief ministerial candidate in either state.
In Telangana, the Congress surprised the rival Telangana Rashtra Samithi by coming up with an alliance in a bid to oust the ruling party and has made the election a tough battle between the two sides. The BJP is seeking to emerge as a key player in the state.
Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is in the race in eight seats and is extending support to the TRS in the rest of the state.
Chief Minister Rao had gone into the poll mode about five months ahead of schedule in the hope of taking the opposition parties by surprise.
But the Congress sprang a surprise by forging an alliance that included its erstwhile adversary TDP. The opposition seems to have been able to put its act together despite “early mover” advantage of TRS which had declared its candidates early.
In Telangana, leaders of the ruling TRS and Congress held hectic campaigning on the last day.
Sonia Gandhi, who has not campaigned in several past elections, made an exception and addressed a rally in Telangana to boost prospects of Congress-led People’s Front. She also made an appeal to voters through a video message.
The new state of Telangana was created when the Congress was in power.
The BJP, which had contested the last polls in alliance with the TDP, is seeking to emerge as a major player in Telangana with both Modi and Shah having addressed rallies there.
In the 2014 assembly elections which were held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls, the TRS polled 33% votes bagging 63 seats while the Congress secured 21 seats with 24% votes. The TDP and its then ally BJP secured 15 and five seats respectively with 21% votes (TDP 14%+BJP 7%).
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