Cyclone Ockhi, which barrelled towards the Gujarat coast to hit areas near Surat around midnight, has come as a dampener to the election heat in Gujarat.
Nearly half a dozen rallies by star campaigners from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as well as the opposition, scheduled for Tuesday and today, including those to be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, had to be cancelled.
The prime minister, whose rally at Surat has been postponed by a day to Thursday, asked senior party leaders of the state to focus on extending help to people likely to be hit by the cyclone.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi made it to the state and addressed a rally in Kutch, while calling off three campaign meetings planned in Morbi, Dhrangadhra and Surendranagar.
The cyclone, which has already taken 25 lives in Kerala, had moved northwards over the last two days. It is currently lying 390 km from Surat. Its intensity has decreased and parts of coastal Maharashtra and Gujarat, including Mumbai, have been receiving heavy rains. The Meteorological Office in Ahmedabad said it will weaken to a deep depression by midnight and come to rest over the Gulf of Kambhat.
The India Meteorological Department has forecast light to moderate rainfall in most places with heavy rainfall at isolated places in Saurashtra and south Gujarat.
The rains, or the prospect of it, have pushed the BJP and the Congress to push back a number of rallies. Three of the cancelled rallies were to be addressed by BJP chief Amit Shah in Amreli's Rajula town and Mahuva and Shihor in Bhavnagar district. But the venue of his rally in Rajula was found to be waterlogged in the morning.
The Congress campaign was equally affected, with three rallies of Rahul Gandhi being put off. Gandhi, who is set to be his party's president, addressed a rally in Anjar, but his meetings at Morbi, Dhrangadhra and Surendranagar could not be held. It was reported that his helicopter could not land in Morbi due to rough weather and the two subsequent rallies had to be postponed.
The BJP has also called off rallies and press conferences of two of its stalwart state leaders - Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath - which were to be held today in the politically crucial Surat city. Its Delhi unit chief Manoj Tiwari's roadshow in Bapunagar area of Ahmedabad was also put off.
A tweet from Prime Minster Modi read, "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."
In Surat, the BJP leaders have already started shifting people to safer places. "We have decided not to do any kind of campaigning until the effect of cyclone remains," Harsh Sanghvi, the legislator from Surat's Majura cponstituency, was quoted as saying by PTI.
Shankersinh Vaghela, who quit Congress to float his 'Jan Vikalp' front earlier this year, has also been forced to cancel his roadshows and rallies in Junagadh, and Mahuva and Palitana towns of Saurashtra.