Gujarat Assembly election 2017
In picture: EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) used in the first phase of Gujarat Assembly polls being stored in a strong room in Surat, Gujarat on December 10, 2017.IANS

The BJP and the Congress on Wednesday, December 13, switched gears once again on the day before the second and last phase of polling for the Assembly in Gujarat -- demonstrating exactly what a victory in the state means for both of them.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday chose to speak about the menace of bad loans -- loans given by banks, often to industrialists, that have not been paid back because the borrowers do not have the money -- that many private and public banks are battling.

Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, decided to fall back on the old formula of women's empowerment and called for more women chief ministers.

Campaigning for this phase of the Assembly election may have officially been halted on Tuesday itself, but that did not stop either the Congress or the BJP from making statements elsewhere.

Details of Phase 2

The second phase of the Assembly election in Gujarat will see the fate of 851 candidates from various parties -- including independents -- sealed by approximately 2.23 crore voters, or whatever portion of them comes out to cast vote.

The polling, for 93 of Gujarat's 182 Assembly seats, will take place across 25,558 polling booths, where 28,118 electronic voting machines have been deployed.

The first phase of polling had seen a voter turnout of 70 percent -- something that should have the BJP worried. Higher voter turnouts often mean people who are unhappy with the current dispensation are casting their votes to bring a new government to power.

Add to that the anti-incumbency factor -- the BJP has been in power for more than two decades -- and the saffron party may indeed go to sleep with a furrowed brow on the day before the second phase.

Gujarat Assembly election 2017 Phase 2

Modi moves on to NPAs

However, the worries did not stop the BJP from going full throttle against the Congress from various pulpits -- platforms other than the ones forbidden in the poll code -- in its efforts to garner votes.

Modi, for example, decided to utilise the 90th Annual General Meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) to blame the Congress-led UPA government before him for the piled-up bad loans or non-performing assets (NPAs) that banks are now saddled with.

"Banks were pressured into giving industrialists loans to the tune of lakhs of crores," said Modi, referring to the UPA-I and UPA-II regimes, from 2004 to 2014.

"This hue and cry over the NPAs that is going on today is the biggest liability handed down by economists from the previous government to us," he added.

He went on to add: "These NPAs are the biggest scam of the previous dispensation -- bigger than even the Commonwealth Games, 2G spectrum allocation and coal block allocation scams."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
In picture: Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 90th Annual General Meeting of FICCI on Wednesday, December 13, 2017.Twitter

Rahul Gandhi returns to women's empowerment

The Congress, having been burnt badly by Mani Shankar Aiyar and his comments just before Phase 1, has been trying to really take the attack to the BJP camp since then.

The stakes are high: Handing a defeat -- or at least a major setback -- to the saffron party in the home state of the prime minister itself should give the Congress enough ammunition to halt critics who have been predicting its doom in their tracks.

While this quest has led to even the otherwise calm and composed former prime minister Manmohan Singh to spew some vitriol, the Congress has struggled to find an issue with which to really stick it to the BJP.

That became all the more apparent when Rahul Gandhi, who formally takes over as Congress president two days after the election, fell back on his old rhetoric of women's empowerment while speaking at the Congess Mahila Samvad event in Delhi.

Rahul Gandhi
In picture: Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi at the Congess Mahila Samvad event in Delhi on Wednesday, December 13, 2017.Twitter/Rahul Gandhi official handle

"Look at any photo of Mahatma Gandhi, and you will see three-four women always by his side. On the other hand, the RSS is an organisation that does not let women in. That is their ideology," said Rahul.

Speaking further, he said: "Unfortunately we do not have a woman President anymore, so we will have to compensate. We will work on having women chief ministers in states."

This was also a dig at the BJP, which had a woman chief minister in Gujarat in the form of Anandiben Patel, but she resigned last year.