New Delhi, Oct 25: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has announced dates for Gujarat Assembly Elections 2017. While the voting will be held in two phases on  December 9 and December 14, counting is scheduled to be held on December 18. The Model Code of  Conduct has come into force with immediate effect in Gujarat. It will also be applicable to the Union Government. The term of 182-seat Gujarat Assembly expires on January 22, 2018. Also Read - 'Your Call Will Strengthen India', PM Modi Lauds Omar Abdullah For Avoiding Gathering on Uncle's Demise

Voting on all the 50, 128 polling booths will be held through EVMs and VVPAT machines, Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti said during a press conference in New Delhi.  The Election Commission has also put a cap on expenditure by candidates. No candidate can spend more than Rs 28 lakh on his election campaign,  said CEC AK Joti. Also Read - 'Yoga With Modi': PM Shares The 'Secret' That is Keeping Him Fit During Lockdown

Opinion Poll Predicts BJP Win

Meanwhile, an opinion poll has predicted that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will retain power in Gujarat despite a high-pitched poll campaign headed by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi himself.

According to the opinion poll conducted by Axis-My India, the BJP is set to return to power for record fifth time with 48 percent voteshare. The Congress would settle in for anything between 38-40 percent voteshare.

The opinion poll has predicted 110-125 and 57-65 seats for the BJP and Congress respectively. Despite the forecast of a clear majority for the BJP in the 182-seat Gujarat Assembly, the party appears to be falling short of president Amit Shah’s target of 150 seats.

The incumbent CM Vijay Rupani has been voted as the top choice for the Chief Minister’s chair with 34 percent people reposing their faith in him, the Opinion Poll said. Congress MLA Shaktisinh Gohil and Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki were the second and third most favoured candidates for the CM post with 19 and 11 percent votes respectively.

The Others

Other political outfits like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and ex-Congress, BJP veteran Shankersinh Vaghela supported Jan Vikal may manage to win three seats. However, these political units may enjoy a decent vote share of 12 percent, the Opinion Poll said.

PM Modi’s Popularity Remains Intact But People Unhappy With GST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to enjoy an overwhelming support of people in his home state – Gujarat. According to the Opinion Poll, 66 percent people are of the view that their state has earned benefits after Modi became the PM.  (Also Read: VVPAT Machines, Suvidha Application, Live Webcast: How EC Turned High-Tech For Gujarat Assembly Elections)

However, the Modi government’s much-publicised and ambitious One-Nation-One-Tax move – Goods and Services Tax (GST) has not received positive response in Gujarat. A majority (51 percent) of people said they were not satisfied with the GST. PM Modi’s another ‘gamble’ – demonetisation – has also not received positive feedback from Gujaratis.

While 53 percent said the noteban failed to have any positive impact, 44 percent disapproved sayng it did.

Will Hardik Patel Make a Difference For Congress?

Dates for Gujarat Assembly Elections have been announced but the Congress is yet to seal deal with Hardik Patel to garner support of the Patel community.

While reports in the media went viral that Patel had a secret meeting with Rahul Gandhi at a hotel in Ahmedabad, both Patel and Congress denied any such meeting.

If the Congress manages to lure Hardik Patel to contest the Gujarat Assembly elections together its overall voteshare is likely to get up by 2 percent to 40 percent. This mean the Congress’ tally may get a benefit of 5-7 seats, Axis-My India Opinion Poll said.

BJP to Dislodge Congress From Power in Himachal

The BJP is also likely to wrest power in Himachal Pradesh from the Congress, the Opinion Poll predicted.

The poll said that the BJP may get 49 percent voters, while 38 percent people may go with the Congress as their first choice to rule the hilly state.  Voting is scheduled to take place on November 9 in Himachal Pradesh.