By NVONews.Com Correspondent,
New Delhi: With the announcement of election dates for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh by the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) V S Sampath in New Delhi on Wednesday battle-lines have been drawn in both the BJP-ruled states.
While Gujarat will have two-phase polling on Dec 13 and 17, election in Himachal would be held on Nov 4. However, counting of votes in both the states will be held on Dec 20. Gujarat Assembly has 182 members while Himachal Pradesh has 68.
Interestingly, the announcement of dates came hours after the Congress President, Sonia Gandhi, while launching an election campaign at Rajkot in Gujarat, came down heavily on the BJP. This followed a series of attack by Narendra Modi, who is making a whirlwind tour of the state, on Sonia Gandhi.
Both these two states will witness a virtual straight fight between the ruling BJP and the Congress though Keshubhai Patel factor may try to make the contest triangle at many places in Gujarat. Patel, a former BJP strongman and state chief minister, left the party after differences with Modi and floated his own party.
Though both the Congress and BJP welcomed the announcement of dates on Wednesday the saffron party hoped that it would retain power in both the states. Much is at stake in Gujarat, in particular, as many BJP leaders want to project the state chief minister as the prime ministerial candidate of the party as well as the NDA for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. However, several senior party leaders are opposed to Modi as they have their own personal ambition.
Since the battle in Gujarat has been made much more high-profile the Modi faction fear the possibility of sabotage from within too. The Janata Dal (United) leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had openly opposed his candidature so has the Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackeray, who recently threw his weight behind the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj.
Since Congress is out of power in both the states the BJP would see to it that it lose nothing. Even a victory by lesser number of seats in Gujarat may mar the future prospect of Narendra Modi.
The Congress spokesman, Manish Tewari, sounded a bit defensive when while commenting on the announcement of dates, said every election is a local election, even parliamentary elections are decided by local issues. No state poll is a referendum on the performance of the national government.
On the other hand the BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said his party is sure of victory in the two states.