Ahmedabad: Cyclone Ockhi today barrelled towards the Gujarat coast where it is likely to make a landfall midnight tonight, forcing several political bigwigs, including BJP chief Amit Shah, to cancel their rallies in the poll-bound state.
Congress vice president, however, made it to the state and addressed a rally in Kutch, while calling off three campaign meetings planned in Morbi, Dhrangadhra and Surendranagar town. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meanwhile, appealed to BJP workers to extend a helping hand to those who would likely be hit by the cyclone.
As per the latest forecast released by the Meteorological Centre here, the cyclone is approaching Gujarat steadily and now lies centred in the Arabian Sea just 390 kms away from the coastline near Surat. "It is very likely to continue to move north- northwestwards, weaken gradually and cross south Gujarat and adjoining Maharashtra coasts near Surat as a deep depression by the night of December 5," said the latest IMD bulletin.
The IMD has forecast light to moderate rainfall in most places with heavy rainfall at isolated places in Saurashtra and south Gujarat. Shah's poll rallies scheduled today in Rajula town of Amreli and Mahuva and Shihor of Bhavnagar district have been cancelled, a party release said. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi held a poll rally at Anjar in Kutch district but cancelled three other campaign meetings in Morbi, Dhrangadhra and Surendranagar town due to the impending cyclone.
BJP MP Manoj Tiwari's roadshow in Bapunagar area of Ahmedabad was also cancelled due to light showers since early morning, Bapunagar MLA Jagroopsinh Rajput said. The BJP also called off rallies and press conferences of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Surat on Tuesday, a party leader said.
Former Congress strongman Shankersinh Vaghela, who floated his 'Jan Vikalp' front, was also forced to cancel his roadshows and rallies that were to be held in Junagadh, and Mahuva and Palitana towns of Saurashtra, a leader of his outfit said. Though Vaghela was supposed to reach Surat tonight, he dropped his plan due to the approaching cyclone.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to the Gujarat BJP workers to focus on providing assistance to the people likely to be hit by the cyclonic storm. "With Cyclone Ockhi expected to make a landfall in Gujarat, I appeal to BJP Gujarat Karyakartas (workers) to focus on helping people across the state. Our Karyakartas should devote themselves to providing all possible assistance and stand shoulder to shoulder with fellow citizens," Modi tweeted.
Inspired by his tweet, BJP leaders in Surat suspended all their campaign-related work and began shifting people to safer places, the ruling party MLA from Surat's Majura seat, Harsh Sanghvi, said. "We have decided not to do any kind of campaigning until the effect of cyclone remains. Since this morning, all our workers have spread across the city to help people. We are moving them to safer locations. During this work, we will not wear any scarves having BJP's election symbol," Sanghvi said.
Meanwhile, as forecast by the weatherman, several districts were receiving light rain since morning today, even as almost the entire state witnessed overcast skies. The Met centre has warned that when the cyclone hits the Gujarat coast, wind speed would remain between 50 and 60 kmph and may reach up to 70 kmph in south Gujarat.
According to principal secretary in the state revenue department, Pankaj Kumar, at least nine districts have received light showers or drizzle since the morning. Dharmarpur town of southern Gujarat received a maximum rainfall of 25 mm, he said. The other districts experiencing a wet spell are Botad, Arvalli, Chhotaudepur, Dahod, Mahisagar, Sabarkantha, Navsari and Rajkot.