Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi gestures as he greets his supporters after casting his vote in the second phase of Gujarat state assembly elections in Ahmadabad. AP Photo/Ajit Solanki
In a repeat of the record turnout in the first phase, the second phase of Gujarat Assembly elections on Monday saw 70% 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% cast their ballots in the second and final phase.
A record 70.75% 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%. The highest polling recorded in the previous Assembly elections was 63.70% 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 on Monday.
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 on Monday 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.