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Rajasthan waits for December 1

Onkar Singh in Jaipur | November 29, 2003 21:30 IST

Campaigning for the December 1 elections in Rajasthan came to an end at 1700 IST, Saturday.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Bharatiya Janata Party state chief Vasundhara Raje have gone back to their respective constituencies and are expected to stay there till voting for the 200 constituencies is over.

Star campaigners for the BJP included Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his deputy Lal Kishenchand Advani, party president Venkaiah Naidu, and other leaders like Pramod Mahajan, Sushma Swaraj, Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini, Shanta Kumar and Vasundhara Raje Scindia.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi was the prominent face of her party. Among others who chipped in were Amarinder Singh and Virbhadra Singh, chief ministers of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh respectively.

"We are getting more then one hundred seats. Final tally could be anywhere between 100-115 seats," Mahajan said at a press conference in Jaipur on Saturday evening.

Congress general secretary Ambika Soni and other party leaders said Gehlot would retain power despite the anti-incumbency factor.

Both parties admitted that rebels would play a major role. Though the Congress and BJP have expelled the rebels, their doors are still open in case the race is close.

Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, whose Indian National Lok Dal has put up a sizeable number of candidates, particularly in the seats adjoining his state, could play a big role in the post-poll scenario.

Various surveys give the Congress a clear edge. But a survey published by Sahara India gives BJP a ten-seat advantage over the Congress. According to this survey the BJP would get 95 seats -- sixty-two more than last time. The survey adds that the Congress tally will come down from 153 to 85.

Political pundits feel that no matter what the surveys say, the race will be close.

In the last elections 72 seats were won or lost by a margin of 2,000 votes. Madhu Dadhich won the Nibahera seat by a margin of 24 votes.

Jaipur district has the most number of seats -- 15; Alwar has 11; Nagor and Udaipur ten each. Jaisalmer has just one seat.

Everyone is trying to please the Jats, who hold sway in 40 constituencies. In another 25 they could be the deciding factor.

There are 1,541 candidates in the fray.

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