Cyclone Ockhi today barrelled towards the Gujarat coast where it is likely to make a landfall by midnight tonight, forcing several political bigwigs, including the Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah to cancel their rallies in the poll-bound state.
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, 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 the BJP workers to extend a helping hand to those who are likely to be hit by the cyclone.
As per the latest forecast released by the Meteorological Centre, the cyclone is approaching Gujarat steadily and now lies centred in the Arabian Sea just 390 km away from the coastline near Surat.
“It is very likely to continue moving north-northwestwards, weaken gradually and cross south Gujarat and adjoining Maharashtra coasts near Surat as a deep depression by the night of Dec. 5,” said the latest bulletin issued by the Indian Meterological Department.
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 towns 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 today, 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.
BJP leaders in Surat have begun 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 IMD 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 maximum rainfall of 25 mm, he said. The other districts experiencing a wet spell are Botad, Arvalli, Chhotaudepur, Dahod, Mahisagar, Sabarkantha, Navsari and Rajkot.
Gujarat’s chief secretary JN Singh interacted with the collectors of coastal districts via video conference to review their preparedness to deal with any eventuality, Kumar added.