Gujarat Assembly elections 2017 dates have been announced and voting will be held in two phases. While 89 seats in 19 districts will vote on December 9, the remaining 93 seats in 14 districts will vote on December 14. The counting of votes for all the 182 Assembly seats will take place on December 18. The term of the 13th Assembly ends on January 22, 2018 and the 14th Assembly has to be constituted by then. The 13th Gujarat Assembly has 120 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs, 43 are from the Congress, four belong to other parties/independents while the remaining 15 seats are vacant.
The total number of voters in the state is 4.33 crore out of which 2.11 crore are in phase one for which voting will take place on December 9 while 2.21 crore can exercise their franchise in the second phase on December 14. There will be 50,128 polling stations in the state and central forces will be used to provide security and environment for free and fair conduct of the elections. The announcement for the Gujarat Assembly elections 2017 were made by Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti on October 25.
Joti added that Rs 28 lakh is the limit for electoral expense per candidate and all those contesting will have to open a separate bank account for poll expenses. Every candidate will have to fill all the columns in the affidavit while filing his/her nomination. According to Joti the Election Commission will issue a notice to candidates who leave any column blank. He added that the candidature of an aspirant may be cancelled if the notice is ignored and the Election Commission does not receive any reply within the stipulated period. Public can use Suvidha app to lodge complaints related to elections With the announcement of the electoral process, the model code of conduct has come into force in the state and on the central government.
Gujarat has 20% voters belonging to the upper caste, Patels or Patidars constitute 16%, other backward castes are 32%, tribals 22% while Muslims are 10%. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP secured a massive 61.1% of the votes in Gujarat while the Congress could claim only 33.5%. Smaller parties and independents bagged the remaining 5.4%. However, the BJP's vote share in the 2012 Assembly elections was 47.9 per cent. The Congress had managed to secure 38.9% of the votes. The figures were almost similar in the 2007 Assembly elections when the BJP got 49.12% of the votes and the Congress had 39.63%.
Gujarat Assembly elections are usually a two-party contest. The BJP and Congress are the main rivals with the former in power in the state since 1995. Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is also trying its luck in the state for the first time. While BJP has been the dominant party in the state for over two decades, the state has witnessed a lot of upheaval in the last couple of years. The agitation by Patidars led by a young Hardik Patel and Dalits following the thrashing of four men from their community on allegation of cow slaughter has seen a lot of churning in state politics with the BJP forced to even change its chief minister.
Anandiben Patel was given the charge after Narendra Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat since October 2001, took over as the Prime Minister of India in May 2016. Following allegations of poor governance and violence during the Patidar agitation, Anandiben was removed and Vijay Rupani took over as the Chief Minister in August 2016. Narendra Modi has been the longest serving chief minister of Gujarat. He occupied the chair for 4,610 days and under his leadership the BJP won three consecutive Assembly elections - 2002, 2007 and 2012. The first Gujarat Assembly elections were held in 1962.
BJP and Congress have been involved in an ugly war-of-words in the run-up to the elections. Both parties have accused each other of playing dirty politics. Both the outfits have been lobbying hard with Patidar leaders and trying to join their parties. Patidars are extremely influential, and dominate the politics and economy of the state. In July 2015, community under the leadership of Hardik Patel started demanding Other Backward Class (OBC) status. The community held massive protests, many of them violent, under the banner of Gujarat Sardar Patel Sevadal and Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS).
With the violence spiraling out of control and showing no signs of abating, the then chief minister Anandiben Patel announced a scheme to lure the Patidars. Under the scheme the state government offered scholarships and subsidies along with 10% reservation for economically backward classes. But the Gujarat High Court quashed the 10% reservation in August 2016.