1,666 candidates in fray for 182 seats

A total of 1,666 candidates are in the fray for the 182 Assembly seats in Gujarat, an EC official said on Tuesday.

"While 820 candidates are in fray for the second phase of state polls, spread across 95 Assembly constituencies in Kutch, central Gujarat and north Gujarat, 846 candidates are contesting the first phase of elections," additional chief electoral officer Ashok Manek said.

The first phase of polls, scheduled for December 13, are spread across Saurashtra, south Gujarat and four talukas of western Ahmedabad.

The number is a steep rise from the 1,268 candidates who contested the 2007 Gujarat Assembly elections. Close to 400 more candidates are in the fray this time, signalling a possible division in votes for all parties.

The ruling BJP has fielded candidates on all the 182 Assembly constituencies and is bidding for extending its 17-year rule in Gujarat.

The opposition Congress, still smarting with defections by party members and sitting MLAs, has fielded candidates on 181 Assembly seats in alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

The only Assembly constituency where neither the Congress nor the NCP has fielded any candidate is Visavadar in Junagadh district, paving way for direct contest between Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) president and former chief minister Keshubhai Patel and sitting BJP MLA and party candidate Kanubhai Bhalala.

GPP has put up 174 candidates across the state.

Six seats, spread across coastal Bhavnagar, neighbouring Amreli district and one seat in Surat district, will witness a four-cornered battle with independent candidates fielded by "Sadbhavana Manch" headed by rebel BJP MLA Dr Kanubhai Kalsariya.

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