1,666 candidates in fray for Gujarat Assembly polls

Gujarat polls

A total of 1,666 candidates will test the political waters to get elected to the 182-member Gujarat Legislative Assembly, an EC official said today.

"820 candidates are in fray for the second phase of state polls, spread across 95 Assembly constituencies in Kutch, central Gujarat and north Gujarat while 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 field this time across all seats, signalling 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.

Congress candidate from Visavadar Rathibhai Mangroliya had claimed that his mandate -- the official document from a party certifying a person's candidature -- was "stolen" by a 12-year-old boy.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat Parivartan Party has reciprocated by withdrawing candidature of Pravin Patel from Maninagar Assembly constituency, clearing decks for a straight contest between Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Congress candidate Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt.

GPP has put up 174 candidates across the state.

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