A record turnout of 70.20 per cent (approximately 1.40 crore voters) during the second phase as well marked the conclusion of the state Assembly elections on Monday. With 70.75 per cent turnout in the first phase, the average turnout during the two-phase polls was a little over 70 per cent, way above the highest polling so far (63.70%) recorded in 1967. The counting of votes is due on Thursday.
In the second phase today, 822 candidates, including Chief Minister Narendra Modi, were in the fray in 95 Assembly constituencies across a dozen districts in north and east Gujarat — Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Dahod, Panchmahals, Kheda, Anand, Patan, Mehsana, Sabarkantha, Gandhinagar, Banaskantha — besides Kutch.
Today’s voting also sealed the fate of other political heavyweights like Amit Shah, ministers Anandiben Patel and Saurabh Patel, and former CM Shankersinh Vaghela.
Also in the fray is Jagruti Pandya, wife of slain BJP leader Haren Pandya. She has been fielded by Keshubhai Patel’s Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) from Ellis Bridge seat in Ahmedabad, which went to polls today.
In Modi’s constituency of Maninagar, the turnout was around 71%.
After casting his vote at a polling booth at a high school in Ranip, Modi, who is seeking a third term, told reporters, “I thank all the voters. In this election, people of Gujarat will make a hat-trick by giving a third term to us.” Modi is locked in a direct contest with the Congress candidate Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt.
Congress also thanked voters for the high turnout and claimed “the enlightened people of Gujarat have voted in the party’s favour and shown anger against the corruption and unjust policies of the BJP”.
Veteran BJP leader L K Advani and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitely were among the prominent voters.
The otherwise peaceful polling was marred by a firing incident involving BJP MLA from Sahera in the Panchmahals district Jetha Bharwad in which four people were injured. Bharwad has been detained and investigation is on.
BJP has a strength of 117 in the outgoing 182-member House. Congress is hoping to return to power in the state after a gap of 22 years.
Stakes are high in phase-II, and not just because of heavyweights are in the fray. In the five districts that comprise central Gujarat, BJP had cornered 37 out of 43 seats in 2002, riding a wave in the aftermath of post-Godhra riots. In the 2007 polls, however, it was upturned by Congress and relegated to just 19 seats.
Earlier this year, BJP held its executive meeting in Vadodara after more than a decade and has fielded at least 10 North Gujarat, on the other hand, has been a BJP stronghold, where it won 19 out of 35 seats in 2002 and improved its tally to 25 seats in 2007. This elections, the five northern districts together hold 32 constituencies.
Same has been the case with Ahmedabad district, where BJP won 17 of the 19 seats in 2002, and 13 seats in 2007. This year, the district has 21 seats, 17 of which went to polls in phase-II.
Out of 822 candidates in this phase, 95 are from the BJP, 92 from Congress, 84 each from the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). There are more than 280 Independent candidates. Of the total, 49 candidates are females.