Kheda, Gujarat: Cricketer Irfan Pathan today sprung a surprise, joining Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at his election rally in Kheda.
Mr Pathan, who belongs to Vadodara and has been forced out of cricketing action by an injury, shared the stage with the chief minister at the rally. His presence is being seen as a shot in the arm for Mr Modi in the highly polarised Gujarat election campaign.
The state goes to polls tomorrow and on December 17. The results will be declared on December 20 and are widely anticipated to go the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) way.
Mr Modi, who is seeking a third consecutive term in power, has been accused by activists and political rivals of being biased against minorities. Gujarat saw its worst communal riots in 2002 - over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
Mr Modi is alleged to have asked his administration to go soft on the rioting Hindu mobs - a charge that he has vehemently countered by saying that all communities prospered equally under his rule.
For the 2012 elections, the BJP has not given tickets to Muslims in any of the 182 seats. The party has explained this by saying that almost all the sitting MLAs were retained and the rest of the seats went to other deserving candidates.
Muslims make up close to 10 per cent of the votes in Gujarat. In many areas, their numbers are high enough to influence the poll outcome.