Sixty-eight per cent voter turnout was recorded in the first phase of Gujarat Assembly elections 2017 held on 89 seats of Saurashtra and South Gujarat, the Election Commission of India said.
The elections concluded in a smooth manner across the state without any incident of violence or any major issues, Gujarat's Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha said.
Eighty-nine seats out of the total of 182 Assembly constituencies went to polls in the first phase with prominent candidates like Chief Minister Vijay Rupani (Rajkot West), Congress’ Shaktisinh Gohil (Mandvi) and Paresh Dhanani (Amreli) in the fray.
The election is being viewed as a prestige battle for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a litmus test for the leadership of soon-to-be Congress chief Rahul Gandhi.
The second phase of polling in 93 seats will be held on December 14 while the counting of votes is scheduled on December 18.
However, there were reports of technical glitches in EVMs in Surat and some other centres. The polling process resumed after the machines were replaced, EC officials said.
“We received complaints of faulty EVMs from some places and all such machines have been replaced with the spare ones kept at the polling stations,” Swain said.
A total turnout of 71.32 per cent was recorded in the last election to the 182-member Assembly. In 2012, out of the 89 seats, 63 were won by the BJP, while the opposition Congress had won 22 with others bagging four.
After the polling process began at 8 am, people could be seen stepping out of their houses despite the cold weather and queueing up to cast votes at polling stations.
With the marriage season on, brides and grooms, clad in wedding finery, came to polling booths along with their relatives to exercise their franchise. Many such voters were seen in Bharuch, Bhavnagar, Gondal and Surat.
Four persons were injured in clashes between two groups of the same community at Chorvila village of Sayla tehsil of Surendranagar district. The polls, however, largely passed off peacefully.
Opposition leaders expressed apprehensions about electronic voting machine (EVM) tampering, a charge rejected by the EC. The BJP took pot-shots at the Congress saying that the party was looking for excuses.
State Election Commission officials said there were reports of technical glitches in EVMs in Surat and some other places, but the polling resumed after the machines were replaced.
Sixty eight per cent of the 2.1 crore voters exercised their franchise, Sinha said.
A 115-year-old woman from Upleta town of Rajkot, Aajiben Chandravadia, also voted on Saturday.
A majority of the candidates of major parties cast their votes by noon while people were still making a beeline at polling booths in large numbers.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, his opponent on the Rajkot-West seat Indranil Rajyaguru, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, Gujarat BJP chief Jitu Vaghani and Congress MLA of Amreli seat Paresh Dhanani were among key leaders who cast their votes.
Cricketer Cheteshwar Pujara and former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel also exercised their franchise in Rajkot.
A total of 89 seats out of 182 -- spanning Saurashtra and south Gujarat regions—are up for grabs in the first phase with 977 candidates in the fray.
Prominent candidates featuring in today’s battle include Chief Minister Rupani, Congress’s Shaktisinh Gohil (Mandvi) and Paresh Dhanani (Amreli).
The election is being viewed as a prestige battle for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a litmus test for the soon-to-be Congress chief Rahul Gandhi.
The high-octane poll campaign shaped up as a duel between Modi and Gandhi, and often turned personal.
The BJP is banking on its performance and Modi’s popularity to counter any anti-incumbency or the impact of the Patidar quota stir. Modi has attacked the Congress over the issue of dynastic politics and corruption and invoked “Gujarati pride’ in his campaign speeches.
Modi addressed about 15 rallies while Gandhi spent more than seven days in Saurashtra and south Gujarat, addressing a number of meetings and emerging as the Congress pivot to take on the prime minister in his home turf.
The second phase of voting will be held on December 14 and the results will be out on December 18.
The Congress, in political wilderness in Gujarat for nearly 22 years, is desperate to break the jinx. It has raised questions over BJP’s “development model”, besides demonetisation and GST.