Mumbai: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi stepped up their campaigns for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls to be held on 28 November.

Shah started his Madhya Pradesh tour on Sunday by addressing a public meeting at Hoshangabad and followed it up with road shows across Satna, Rewa, Dhindori, and Jabalpur on Monday.

Gandhi began his two-day tour with a visit to the Maa Peetambara Peeth temple in Datia district, before addressing public meetings in Gwalior and Chambal divisions. He is also expected to hold a road show in Gwalior.

The two parties are locked in a direct battle in this crucial state. Most opinion polls have predicted a close fight between the two parties.

The Congress, however, suffered a blow last month, when the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) said it would not enter into a pre-poll alliance with it in Madhya Pradesh. The BSP is likely to contest all 230 seats in the state. Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), another crucial ally in the Congress’ plan for a rainbow coalition against the BJP, also said it will contest 200 seats in the state alone, despite its marginal presence.

There is no respite even for the BJP, which aims to counter 15 years of anti-incumbency and win 200 seats in the 230-member Assembly.

The Shiv Sena, which is part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the ruling coalition in Maharashtra, on Monday declared its first list of 21 candidates for the Madhya Pradesh polls. The second list will be declared on 25 October, it said.

Shah and Gandhi are leaving no stone unturned to overcome such obstacles. Shah focused on organizational effort and outreach during his two-day campaign, while Gandhi, who is playing the soft-Hindutva card, has packed his election campaign with visits to important shrines of multiple faiths.

Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of corruption in the Rafale deal. He also promised a farm loan waiver if the Congress was voted to power.

On Tuesday, the Congress president will visit a Gurudwara at the Gwalior fort. He will then address a rally in Sabalgarh and take part in a 26-km road show from Jaura to Morena.

A Madhya Pradesh BJP leader who did not wish to be named said Shah was focused on keeping the party’s organisational machinery in battle-mode.

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