New Delhi :
Gujarat on Tuesday recorded a high voter turnout of 62.36 per cent across the 26 Lok Sabha seats in a single-phase polling amid reports of glitches in EVMs and stray incidents of intimidation and violence.
Key political leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, party veteran LK Advani, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Congress leader Ahmed Patel and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani exercised their franchise at different places in the state.
The turnout figure of 62.36 per cent, just a notch below what was posted in 2014, is tentative and is expected to increase.
In the 2014 general elections, the voter turnout was 63.6 per cent - the second highest in the state's history after the all-time high of 63.77 per cent recorded in 1967.
There were complaints of EVMs malfunctioning at some booths in the state, but Election Commission (EC) officers said the faulty machines were promptly replaced with new ones and the polling was not affected.
"The voter turnout was 62.36 per cent and the polling was largely peacefully barring some incidents," said Chief Electoral Officer S Murli Krishna, adding voting percentage is likely to increase after final counting.
PM Modi, who cast his vote in morning hours, appealed to electors to come out in large numbers by drawing an analogy between voter ID (identity) cards and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to drive home his point.
"Indian democracy presents an example before the world. While on one hand, an IED is the weapon of terrorists, on the other hand, the voter ID is the weapon and power of democracy," Modi said after casting his vote in a polling booth set up inside a school in Gandhinagar.
"I am confident that the power of voter ID is much more than the IED and we should understand the importance of the voter ID card and come out to vote in large numbers," he said.
Before voting, PM Modi went to seek blessings of his nonagenarian mother Hiraba, who gave him a shawl, sweets and coconut. Hiraba Modi lives with her younger son Pankaj Modi at Raisan village located close to state capital Gandhinagar.
However, after voting Modi's short walk among hundreds of people who had come to greet him and subsequent brief media interaction did not go down well with the Congress which lodged a complaint with the Election Commission (EC).
The EC is looking into the Congress complaint, which alleged violation of the model code of conduct by Modi, Krishna said.
Apart from PM Modi, other top BJP leaders like Advani, Shah and Jaitley voted in Ahmedabad. Shah is the BJP candidate from the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency.
PM Modi's wife Jashodaben voted at a polling booth at Unjha in Mehsana district.
Congress leaders Ahmed Patel, Paresh Dhanani, Amit Chavda and Shaktisinh Gohil also voted in the first half of the day.
Barring a few incidents, the polling remained largely peaceful.
In Junagadh, two persons were arrested by the police for allegedly threatening voters in the Ambedkarnagar area of the city, said the officials, who swung into action after a video of the incident went viral on social media.
"Based on a complaint given by local Congress leaders, the police rushed to the spot and arrested two persons who can be seen in the video," said Junagadh collector Sourabh Pardhi.
In Dahod, a mob of around 20 people barged into a polling booth at Zalod and allegedly beat up two persons who were deployed there for election duty, said the police, adding no one has been arrested yet in the case.
In another incident, workers of the Congress and the BJP engaged in a brawl at Dhanikhunt polling booth in Fatehpura taluka of Dahod district, said the police.
According to Gujarat's Additional Chief Electoral Officer Ashok Manek, some EVM machines were replaced after they experienced technical problems during polling.
"Some EVM machines malfunctioned in some parts of the state. We quickly replaced them. Voting was not affected by this," said Manek.
Polling was brisk in the initial hours with the state recording 40 per cent voting till 1 pm. However, it was lacklustre in afternoon hours due to scorching heat as temperature touched 42 degrees Celsius.
However, voting picked up once again after 4.30 pm, officials said.
Chief Minister Rupani, speaking after casting his vote, said the high voter turnout will favour the BJP.
"People have voted with enthusiasm to re-elect Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again. The voting percentage is almost same or even higher than 2014, which indicates that there is a wave in favour of Modi.
"The BJP will retain all the 26 seats," Rupani said.
However, the Congress, which had drawn a blank in 2014, sounded confident about doing well this time around.
"The people of Gujarat have come out in large numbers to vote out the BJP. When the results are out they will get a jolt," claimed senior Congress leader Bharat Solanki.
There were a total of 371 candidates in the fray for the 26 seats.
Apart from Shah, other prominent contestants include Union minister Jaswantsinh Bhahor (Dahod), Solanki (Anand) and Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani of the Congress (Amreli).
Counting of votes will take place on May 23.