Gujarat polls 2007: Confident Modi votes

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Ahmedabad, Dec 16: He came, he saw and he voted. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi today reached the polling booth at 0940 hours and finished casting his vote by 0950 hours at the Navchetan Vidyalaya, in Ranip here, which falls in Sarkhej constitutency.

The crowd was massive and estimated at over 7000. As Mr Modi's cavalcade entered and he got down from his car, the atmosphere turned electrifying with slogans renting the air in his favour. While entering his car after voting, Mr Modi was in no mood to speak except a few lines. His demeanour showed it all as he flashed a victory sign. ''The BJP is set to win and there is no fear of losing,'' he said.

Now that Moditva campaign is over, the onus is firmly on the voters of north and central Gujarat to give a verdict. Mr Modi himself is contesting from Maninagar constituency where he faces an 'outsider' yet a formidable opponent, Union Minister of State for petroleum Dinsha Patel.

The voting, which began today for the second and last phase at 0800 hours, saw voters slowing trekking in despite the severe cold to 20,545 booths in 11 districts for the 95 seats. With 599 candidates vying for 18.7 million votes of the electorate, the 95 seats which hold the key are spread over in 43 constituencies of central Gujarat and 52 in north Gujarat.

Mr Modi exuded confidence today but there could be surprises in store for him as a large section of Patels and rebels of his own party, chiefly among them being former chief ministers Keshubhai Patel and Suresh Mehta have turned against him.

In central and north Gujarat, his additional headache is the sullen RSS and VHP cadres who, unlike last time around, are refusing to toe Mr Modi's line.

VHP Gujarat president Praveen Togadia had been campaigning against the BJP supremo L K Advani for his ''anti-Hindutva'' remark of praising Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Lahore couple of years ago. Mr Modi is yet to come to terms with Mr Togadia who was conspicuous by his absence in BJP campaigns.

This time around, it is not the BJP that is in fray but, the undisputed leader Mr Modi himself. His challenge is not only to retain the number of seats he got last time, but also to improve on them. If he wins, it would be as good as BJP winning with its slogan ''Jitega Gujarat.'' Interestingly, if Congress wins, the ''Chak de Gujarat'' would symbolise the victory of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress National Secretary Rahul Gandhi and not the victory of her satraps.

UNI

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