Continuing the high turnout trend of the first phase, about 69% of the 19.8 million electors in the second and final phase of the Gujarat poll came out to vote on Monday, deciding on whether it would be a hat trick by chief minister Narendra Modi or return of the Congress after 22 years.
However, exit polls telecast on various news channels on Monday predicted that Modi is set for a landslide victory for the third time in Gujarat while the Congress appears to have an edge in Himachal Pradesh that went to the polls on November 4.
All the polls were unanimous in their forecasts on Modi-led BJP’s victory and some even predicted a reduced tally for the Congress. The election results for both the states will be declared on Thursday.
In Gujarat, taking the 70.75% voting in the first phase, the overall turnout is likely to cross 70%, a rise of around 9% from the previous polls in 2007.
While in the second phase of the Gujarat poll, there were 820 candidates for 95 seats in 12 districts in central and north Gujarat and the Kutch, the first phase covered 87 seats in Saurashtra, south Gujarat and Ahmedabad rural on December 13.
The BJP fielded candidates in all the 95 constituencies, while the Congress is contesting in 92. The Gujarat Parivartan Party of former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, who broke away from the BJP, and the BSP are contesting 84 seats each. There are also 284 independents in the fray.
Besides Modi, top BJP leaders LK Advani and Arun Jaitley also cast their votes in Ahmedabad. The prominent candidates in the second phase include Modi, former CM and Gujarat Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela and more than a dozen ministers of the Modi cabinet.
Controversial former minister of state for home Amit Shah, an accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati encounter cases, health minister Jaynarayan Vyas and revenue minister Anandiben Patel are also among those in the fray.
While Modi is being challenged by Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt, in Maninagar constituency, Jagruti Pandya, wife of slain BJP leader Haren Pandya of Gujarat Parivartan Party, is trying her luck from Ellis Bridge where her husband won twice in 1995 and 1998.
The poll, however, was marred by a firing incident, involving BJP MLA Jetha Bharwad from Sahera in Panchmahal district in central Gujarat that left four people injured. Bharwad has been detained and a probe is on.
Modi said after casting his vote from Ranip in Ahmedabad: “In these elections, people of Gujarat will make a hat trick by making the BJP win again. I am committed to six crore people of Gujarat and I live for them. What I am doing is for Gujarat and this is also service to the nation.”
But the Congress filed a complaint against him for alleged violation of the model code of conduct by 'campaigning' on the polling day.
"After coming out of the polling booth, the CM addressed the crowd and by showing the 'V' sign he made an appeal to the voters to make the BJP candidate victorious," said advocate and Congress's legal cell member Vijay Kanara.