Gujarat polls: 70 per cent in 2nd phase, repeat of 1st phase polling

Gujarat elections
In a repeat of the record turnout in the first phase, the second phase of Gujarat Assembly elections today saw 70 per cent polling in the toughest electoral test for Chief Minister Narendra Modi who is seeking a third term.

Counting of votes will be taken up on Thursday with the massive turnout being a subject of intense speculation on which party would benefit.

An Election Commission official here said an estimated 70 per cent cast their ballots in the second and final phase.

A record 70.75 per cent of the eligible voters cast their ballots in the first of the two-phase elections last Thursday with the average polling being a little over 70 percent. The highest polling recorded in the previous Assembly elections was 63.70 per cent in 1967.

The polling was marred by a firing incident involving BJP MLA from Sahera in Panchmahal district Jetha Bharwad in which four people were injured. Bharwad has been detained and investigation is on.

Polling was held in 95 constituences--17 in Ahmedabad city, 40 in five districts -Vadodara, Dahod, Panchmahal, Kheda and Anand-of central Gujarat, 32 in Patan, Mehsana, Sabarkantha, Gandhinagar and Banaskantha--of north Gujarat and six in Kutch district. The first phase saw voting in 87 assembly segments.

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.

Modi, who is contesting from Maninagar in Ahmedabad city, and Congress' Shankar Singh Vaghela, a former Chief Minister, were among the 822 candidates whose fate were sealed in the ballots today.

Modi, a BJP stalwart, is locked in a direct contest with the Congress candidate Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt. A new entrant, Shweta is testing political waters for the first time.

The other prominent candidates who were in the fray today included controversial former minister of state for home, Amit Shah, accused in Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati encounter cases, health minister Jaynarayan Vyas and revenue minister Anandiben Patel.

Jagruti Pandya, wife of slain BJP leader Haren Pandya of Keshubhai Patel's Gujarat Parivartan Party(GPP), is trying her luck from Ellis Bridge seat in this city.

Modi cast his vote at Nishan High School in Ranip area of the city.

Confident of returning to power, Modi, who was mobbed by his supporters, said, "I thank all the voters. In this election, people of Gujarat will make a hat-trick by giving a third term to us."

Veteran BJP leader L K Advani and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitely were among theprominent voters.

The high voting till afternoon and huge turnout has once again sparked off a debate on vote swing, which political pundits predict could be anti-incumbency or swing in favour of a particular party.

Long queues were seen since morning across 23,318 polling stations, with men, women and youths coming out in large numbers.

Record 70.10% polling in Ahmedabad district

An unprecedented 70.10 per cent voting was recorded in Ahmedabad district today, the highest-ever amongst cities with million-plus population in the country, election authorities said here.

Amidst this high turnout, the Model Code of Conduct Cell received 70 complaints of violation, including one against the Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

"An unprecedented historic voting of nearly 70.10 per cent was recorded on 17 seats, around 15 per cent higher than previous elections, and is highest in 50 years since the formation of Gujarat state," District Election Officer, Ahmedabad, Vijay Nehra said.

"If voting on four seats in the first phase is clubbed, the estimated percentage for the entire Ahmedabad district was around 69.6 per cent," he said, adding, this shattered the myth that educated middle classes don't come out to vote.

58 per cent polling had been recorded in the district in 2007 Assembly elections, and 55.89 per cent in 2002.

About complaint against Modi, Nehra said, "We have received a complaint of MCC violation by a candidate at one of the booths where Modi made 'V' for victory sign. A report has been sought and it would be submitted to Election Commission."

The highest polling -- 73 per cent -- was recorded in Vejalpur Assembly constituency, while the lowest -- 67 per cent -- was reported from Jamalpur Khadia. In phase II, polling took place for 17 seats in Ahmedabad district.

An estimated 19,52,714 men and 17,51,797 women exercised franchise at 3,816 booths today.

For the first time, video footage from 67 booths was streamed live online with the assistance from college students.

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