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Electioneering ends in Rajasthan, polling on Dec 7

PTI     December 5, 2018

(Eds: Adds details, recasts intro) Jaipur, Dec 5 (PTI) A high-decibel campaign that saw scores of election rallies in which the BJP and the Congress sparred over corruption, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s caste and Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s ‘dynasty’ ended in Rajasthan on Wednesday. As many as 2,274 candidates including 189 women are in the fray for 199 out of the 200 assembly constituencies in the state. Election in Alwar district’s Ramgarh constituency has been postponed due to the death of Bahujan Samaj Party candidate Laxman Singh. “Electioneering ended at 5 pm today. Polling will take place from 8 am to 5 pm on December 7 in 199 constituencies,” Rajasthan’s chief electoral officer Anand Kumar said. He said elaborate security arrangements have been made for free and fair polls. There are 4.77 crore registered voters in Rajasthan. In the BJP ruled state, electioneering brought up issues like farmers’ problems, corruption and jobs for the youth. Both parties promised an unemployment allowance to the educated youth. The Congress promised a loan waiver for farmers. The campaign also saw Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi taking digs at each other over Bharat Mata ki Jai’ slogans. Out campaigning in the state, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister triggered a row over the caste of Lord Hanuman. Modi addressed two rallies Wednesday, taking his total in the state to 12. Rahul Gandhi has addressed nine public meetings. Home Minister Rajnath Singh and several other Union ministers campaigned in the state, which the Bharatiya Janata Party is fighting to retain. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje criss-crossed Rajasthan, travelling by road and air and addressing at least five meetings a day. The Congress also fielded its state unit chief Sachin Pilot and former chief minister Ashok Gehlot in the campaign for the closely contested election. If the party wins, one of them could be the chief minister. Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati also campaigned in the state. The contest is mainly between the BJP and the Congress candidates in about 130 seats. At about 50 other seats, rebel candidates from both major parties are in the fray, refusing to step down in favour of the official nominees. There are 830 independent candidates. The BJP is contesting on all seats while the Congress has left five seats for its allies. The BSP fielded 190 candidates, the CPI (M) 28 and CPI 16. In the current House, the BJP has 160 seats and the Congress 25. Counting will take place on December 11 for Rajasthan and four other states taking part in this round of assembly elections. BJP president Amit Shah said at a press conference in Jaipur on Wednesday that the party held 15 roadshows and 222 big meetings. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is contesting from her Jhalrapatan constituency, facing BJP veteran Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra Singh who has defected to the Congress. She is the BJP's chief ministerial nominee again. In Tonk, Sachin Pilot and Rajasthan Transport Minister and BJP candidate Yoonus Khan are in the contest. Khan is the only Muslim candidate fielded by the party. Former chief minister Ashok Gehlot is fighting for Sardarpura seat. Jat leader Hanuman Beniwal has become a concern for both the parties, after founding the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party and fielding 58 candidates. He is eyeing the Jat vote in Shekhawati and Marwar regions and has used a helicopter to address more than 15 election rallies. Former Union minister and Congress candidate for the Nathdwara seat C P Joshi triggered a row over a casteist remark against Modi. The prime minister was quick to raise the issue at his rallies, asking people, “Will you vote on the basis of my caste?” He insisted that development was the BJP’s mantra. Modi repeatedly called Rahul Gandhi a ‘naamdar’, or dynast, taking digs at the “four generations” of the Nehru-Gandhi family, claiming they neglected development. The surgical strike against Pakistan was also an election theme at BJP meetings. The Congress often raised alleged corruption in the Rafale military aircraft deal. Modi, in turn, talked about “rampant corruption” during the Congress tenure. On the last day of electioneering, he highlighted the extradition of Christian Michel, the alleged mastermind in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal. The `Bharat Mata ki Jai’ slogan became an issue after Gandhi said Modi should instead begin his rallies with salutations to industrialists. The Congress faced embarrassment over a video of Bikaner West candidate B D Kalla, who is purportedly seen stopping his supporters chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, and then the party workers shout ‘Sonia Gandhi ki Jai’. PTI SDA ASH ASH

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