Verdict sealed for 89 seats in Gujarat’s high-stakes Phase-1

Updated on Dec 04, 2022 01:47 PM IST

Over 23,976,670 people across 89 constituencies in the battleground regions of Saurashtra and South Gujarat voted on Thursday in the first phase of the assembly elections and recorded a provisional turnout of over 60.47%.

PM Narendra Modi at a rally in Ahmedabad on Thursday. (PTI)
PM Narendra Modi at a rally in Ahmedabad on Thursday. (PTI)
ByMaulik Pathak and Amit Cowper, Ahmedabad/surat

Over 23,976,670 people across 89 constituencies in the battleground regions of Saurashtra and South Gujarat voted on Thursday in the first phase of the assembly elections and recorded a provisional turnout of over 60.47%.

Data from the Election Commission of India (ECI) pegged the turnout number at 60.47% at 10pm. The number is likely to be revised upwards on Friday. In 2017, the figure in these 89 seats was 68%.

“We will have the exact figures by midnight, as in some places the polling is still going on and in some places the data is still being gathered,” P Bharti, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Gujarat said

The second phase of the elections will be held on December 5 and the results will be announced on December 8, along with those in Himachal Pradesh. The BJP is hoping for a seventh straight assembly election victory, while the Congress is looking for a repeat of its strong showing in 2017 and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is aiming for a strong showing in its maiden electoral outing in the state.

“There were three instances of election boycott at Jamnagar, Narmada and Bharuch district villages where issues like land, separate booths for male and female and basic amenities at booths were the problem,” Bharti said.

On Thursday morning, as polling booths opened their doors at 8am, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the state’s chief minister between 2001 and 2014 and around whose popularity the BJP campaign has revolved, appealed to the people to vote. “Today is the first phase of the Gujarat elections. I call upon all those voting today, particularly first time voters, to exercise their franchise in record numbers,” he added.

Also read: Gujarat elections: Dairy cooperatives shape rural contest

The highest voting percentage, 74%, was recorded in Dang district and the lowest, 53%, in Porbandar district. “We have received a total of 104 complaints; Apart from that, other complaints we received were about the slow poll process, bogus voting and power cut. The bogus voting complaints were from Gir Somnath and Jamnagar districts,” Bharti added.

The state is witnessing the first triangular poll contest since 1990, with the BJP hoping to consolidate its position in its stronghold. Its principal challengers are the Congress and the AAP, hoping to capitalise on anti-incumbency, and a slew of poll promises, including 300 units of free electricity.

The first phase of election is crucial because the BJP faced some setbacks in these regions in 2017, due to anger among farmers and trader communities and the Patidar quota agitation. Of these 89, the BJP won 47, the Congress 39 and others 3. A large number of seats in this phase are also in the countryside, where the BJP performed relatively poorly five years ago.

The next phase will be in central Gujarat, considered a BJP bastion due to its urban centres, and parts of north Gujarat and sections of the tribal belt.

788 candidates are in the fray for the first phase across 19 districts, with 23.9 million voters eligible to exercise their franchise. These include 574,000 voters in the age group of 18-19 and 4,945 above 99, the office of the state CEO said.

A number of high-profile seats — including Rajkot west, Gondal and Morbi, where 135 people died in a bridge collapse in October — went to the polls on Thursday. Political heavyweights including Gujarat BJP unit chief CR Patil and minister of state for home Harsh Sanghavi cast their vote early on Thursday morning. “Modi’s magic works every time, everywhere. He’s in people’s hearts. They trust him and he is capable of meeting their expectations,” Patil said.

Rivaba Jadeja, the wife of cricketer Ravindra Jadeja, voted in Rajkot, while Congress candidate from Amreli, Paresh Dhanani, and the AAP’s Rajkot South candidate, Dinesh Joshi, travelled to their respective polling booths on a cycle with gas cylinders attached, in a symbolic protest against rising prices.

The Khambhalia seat from where Ishudan Gadhavi, the AAP chief ministerial candidate is contesting and Katargam constituency from where AAP Gujarat president Gopal Italia is contesting also saw polling on Thursday. With that, the Porbandar Congress candidate, Arjun Modhwadiya is fighting his old rival from BJP, sitting MLA Babubhai Bokhiria.

The BJP campaign was led by Modi and the benefits of a double engine government — a reference to the party being in power both at the Centre and in the state — as well as its development record, including bringing water to parched areas of the state through the Sardar Sarovar project, for instance.

Also read: AAP Gujarat chief claims voting ‘deliberately slowed’ in Katargam

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who held 14 rallies, focused on governance delivery and asked people to vote for change. “89 seats of the first phase of the Gujarat elections vote today. My appeal to the assembly constituencies that are going to the polls is that you have a golden chance to vote for the betterment of Gujarat and the future of your children. This time do something big,” he said in Saraspur, Ahmedabad.

The Congress ran a quieter campaign but made 11 promises, including one million jobs, implementation of the old pension scheme as well as 300 units of free electricity.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi appealed to the people of Gujarat to go out and vote. “Vote for employment, vote for cheap gas cylinders, vote for a farm loan waiver, vote for a forward looking Gujarat. Vote in large numbers and make this festival of democracy a success,” he said on his Twitter account.

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