At 67, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a senior citizen with a string of electoral victories in his job profile.

At 24, Hardik Patel can just about vote, but not contest an Assembly election.

And at 47, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is expected to take the baton of party leadership from his mother Sonia Gandhi next month.

For all the three, Gujarat is going to be a laboratory in electoral dynamics. The outcome of the December results to Gujarat Vidhan Sabha polls will go a long way in deciding their leadership sweepstakes. In fact, with all the democratic colours and dirt on display, these polls promise to present a carnival-type scenario, with nearly 1,600 candidates filing nominations in the first phase to elect 89 lawmakers.

With Modi’s arrival in Gujarat next week for poll rallies, the BJP is gearing up for an epic battle, the like of which it has not seen since 1998. The Congress too is bracing for a no-holds-barred campaign, charged as it is now with the Rahul battery.

A clear stand

With few options left for him, Hardik announced plans to oppose the BJP, and hence “indirectly” support the Congress.

Clearly, Hardik would not like to be seen openly supporting the Congress, belonging as he does to the Patidar community, a majority of whose members support the BJP. b He will be prominently seen as one who opposed the BJP because of its “betrayal” of his community and the “atrocities” on the Patidars following their agitation.

This eminently suits the Congress, which had successfully mollycoddled the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and thwarted its efforts to wrest a large number of seats. Interestingly, the Congress has treated Hardik, who gathered a million-strong crowd in Ahmedabad in 2015, and tribal leader Chhotubhai Vasava, who is virtually unknown outside his circles, at par by gifting them three seats each.

And the BJP? True to the carnival spirit, its band of some 30-odd musicians from Maharashtra launched their shows across the State on Tuesday to keep the voters spell-bound about the party’s v ik as -related claims.

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