Rajasthan will go to the polls today, two days after a high-decibel election campaign that witnessed the participation of everybody from Congress president Rahul Gandhi to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ended on a suspenseful note.
While the state will witness a direct contest between BJP and Congress candidates in about 130 seats, 50 others will have rebels from both sides playing spoilsport. While the Vasundhara Raje-led ruling party faces a perceived anti-incumbency sentiment, the Congress suffers from the lack of a chief-ministerial face. Party state unit chief Sachin Pilot and former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot both have loyal followers, and it was decided at the top level that an early decision in this regard should not be taken for fear of antagonising either faction.
As many as 2,274 candidates, including 189 women, are in the fray for 199 out of 200 constituencies in the state. Polling in Alwar district's Ramgarh constituency was postponed following the death of a Bahujan Samaj party candidate.
"Voting will happen from 8 am to 5 pm in 199 constituencies," Rajasthan's Chief Electoral Officer Anand Kumar said, adding that elaborate security arrangements have been made for free-and-fair polls. There are 4.77 crore registered voters in Rajasthan, over 20 lakh of whom will be casting their franchise for the first time.
The campaigning initially focused on agricultural issues, corruption and employment figures, but eventually swung into the realm of Lord Hanuman's caste and "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" slogans. While PM Modi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Ms Raje were the star campaigners for the BJP, the Congress rallies were mostly headlined by Mr Gandhi, Mr Pilot and Mr Gehlot.
The results will be declared on December 11, along with that of Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram. The BJP had stormed to power in the 2013 Rajasthan assembly elections, winning 163 of 200 seats while the Congress could manage just 23.
(With inputs from PTI)