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Campaigning ends in Gujarat
December 10, 2002 22:39 IST
Curtains came down on Tuesday evening on an acrimonious campaign for the keenly contested Gujarat assembly election, voting for which will take place on Thursday.
With less than 36 hours to the polling, political parties have now got down to door-to-door campaigning in 181 constituencies across 25 districts.
Election to the Surat City (west) assembly seat was countermanded following the death of caretaker Law Minister Hemant Chapatwala.
The campaigning, held in the backdrop of the Godhra train massacre and the subsequent communal violence that left over 800 dead, was by and large peaceful, barring a few attacks on candidates and group clashes.
Coming as it does after a string of electoral defeats, the Gujarat election is a crucial test for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
BJP's chief campaigner, Narendra Modi, mentioned Godhra in almost every rally he addressed. He also often raked up rival Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi's foreign origins.
Sonia hit back at Modi, questioning his government's handling of the communal violence.
The BJP's campaign was beefed up by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy Lal Kishenchand Advani and a host of other national leaders.
While Vajpayee in his speeches concentrated on development, peace and harmony, he did attack Sonia once for taking exception to his party's criticism of late Indira Gandhi.
Security, meanwhile, has been reinforced across the state with the deployment of nearly 400 companies of central paramilitary forces.
A total of 3.28 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise. As many as 14,707 polling stations in 22 districts have been declared sensitive by the Election Commission.
Nearly 1,000 candidates, including 32 women contestants, are in the fray.
Campaigning also ended on Tuesday for by-elections to three Lok Sabha seats of Mehsana (Gujarat), Godda (Jharkhand) and Nainital (Uttaranchal) and assembly seats of Daporiji (Arunachal Pradesh), Khumtai (Assam) and Bansur, Sagwar and Bali (Rajasthan).