Polling for the Gujarat Assembly elections ended on Sunday with an estimated 63 to 65 per cent of voters casting the ballots in the second and final phase in the northern and central districts of the state which was at the eye of the 2002 communal riots.
The fate of several BJP and Congress heavyweights including Chief Minister Narendra Modi were sealed in Sunday's polling which covered 95 of the 182 constituencies including Godhra, the epicentre of the riots. Counting of votes will be taken up on December 23.
"The polling was by and large peaceful and orderly with no major incident being reported," Deputy Election Commissioner Jaiprakash told reporters in New Delhi.
BJP had swept the polls in 2002 in these constituencies winning 73 seats while Congress bagged 21. Godhra constituency, the epicentre of the riots, polled 53 to 55 per cent.
Modi is seeking re-election from Maninagar in Ahmedabad and is pitted against Union Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dinsha Patel of Congress.
Nearly 1.87 crore voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in the second phase in which 599 candidates including 31 women were in the fray. In the first phase of voting in 87 constituencies, voting was around 60 per cent.
Voting was brisk throughout the day and people were lined up even after the stipulated time of 1700 hours. Barring a few incidents of violence and bogus voting, the polling went off peacefully with 574 central para military companies and state police maintaining a tight vigil in areas which witnessed maximum rioting during the 2002 communal clashes, Jaiprakash said.
BJP leader LK Advani and Modi claimed BJP would score a "historical win" while Congress leader and Union minister Shankarsinh Vaghela said people are fed up with Modi government and will vote it out.
The second phase, which will be decisive for the BJP to cling to power, will also decide the electoral fate of Revenue Minister Kaushik Patel, Health Minister Ashok Bhatt, Minister of State for Home Amit Shah, Education Minister Anandiben Patel and Vipul Chaudhary.
Congress candidates in the fray on Sunday included former deputy chief minister Narhari Amin, Udaysinh Baria and Balwantsinh Rajput.
Over 5,000 poll observers were posted inside polling stations in key areas and the polling process in sensitive constituencies was recorded by 6,000 video cameras, Jayprakash said.
A BJP candidate Jyanthi Ratwa contesting from Pavi-Jetpur in Vadodra district was booked under various sections of IPC and Arms Act for illegal possession of arms.
He was among six persons arrested late on Saturday night after a country-made weapon and some live cartridges were recovered from a vehicle in which they were travelling.
One presiding officer in Sankheda was replaced for not adhering to instructions of the Commission, he said. Four cases of bogus voting was registered in Limidi and an election agent was booked under Section 135 of People's Representation Act for canvassing within 200 metres of polling stations.
According to reports from Godhra, both the majority and minority community members came out in large numbers to vote.
The BJP candidate from Godhra, Prabhatsinh Chauhan, was involved in a scuffle when he went to visit booth number 58 and 59 located in minority locality of Godhra town.
A stone pelting incident was also reported from Savli constituency of Vadodara district where some unidentified persons pelted stones at a car carrying BJP workers in Tundav village. There were complaints of missing names from voters' lists and faulty EVMs from several areas on Sunday.
The wintry conditions did not prevent several enthusiastic voters to turn up at booths before booths opened. The campaign was marked by bitter acrimony between Congress and BJP. Development was the poll plank of the two parties but towards the end of the campaign issues relating to terrorism were flagged by Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
The campaign also saw Modi, Sonia Gandhi, Congress leader Digvijai Sinh and BJP leader VK Malhotra being slapped with notices by the Election Commission to explain some of their alleged controversial remarks. The two sides also traded charges through an open newspaper advertisment war.
Modi ran into trouble for allegedly justifying the fake encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh while Sonia got the notice for her "merchants of death" remarks targetting Modi and his government.
The EC had for the first time in the Gujarat elections appointed micro observers at sensitive booths. Around, 4,830 micro observers monitored voting at these booths and will give their reports to elections observers. The EC also made video recording of the voting in all the booths of the state.