An unexpectedly high 63 per cent of the electorate voted in a mostly uneventful election to the Gujarat assembly on Thursday. The high percentage of polling suggested the BJP's committed voters had come out in strength, though exit polls on two television channels predicted only a narrow win for the party.
Deputy Election Commissioner AN Jha gave out the approximate voting percentage at a press briefing in New Delhi, and said the day had been "by and large peaceful". Elections were held for 181 of the 182 seats in the House, the vote for
the Surat (West) seat having been countermanded after the death of the BJP candidate.
Despite an unprecedented security detail, a crude bomb was found at a polling centre in Jetpur, Rajkot. Local police defused it before any damage was done.
At Deesa in Banaskantha, the sitting BJP MLA complained he had been manhandled before polling began. In Vadodra and Ahmedabad's Shahpur and Gomtipur areas, rival groups of party workers threw stones.
The communally-sensitive spots — constituencies that saw the most violence during the summer riots — were calm.
At Godhra, polling was fairly heavy. Booths in the predominantly Muslim areas, however, saw a much higher percentage of voting. Bajrang Dal leader Haresh Bhatt is the BJP's candidate there.
Long queues of voters were also seen in Ahmedabad's riot-prone Dariapur-Kazipur area, which has a sizeable Muslim population. A moderate turnout was reported from Naroda Patiya in the city, which was among the areas worst hit by the communal violence that followed the Godhra incident.
North Gujarat, considered a Congress stronghold, saw nearly 60 per cent voting. Fifty-eight per cent turned out in the Patel bastion of Saurashtra, where supporters of former chief minister Keshubhai Patel are billed to impact strongly on the BJP's tally.
Electors in Maninagar, Ellisbridge, Sarkhej and Naroda in Ahmedabad, Anjar and Bhuj in Kutch and several places in Saurashtra, complained their names were missing from the voters' lists.
VHP leader Praveen Togadia claimed his name was missing from the electoral rolls for Ahmedabad’s Sarkhej constituency. However, an Election Commission spokesman said Togadia’s name was, in fact, on the list.