Gujarat Assembly polls: 56.88 per cent voter turnout in first phase

  • Polling for 89 seats begin at 8 am
  • BJP slams Kharge for 'Ravan' remarks against Modi
  • EC seizes cash, freebies worth Rs 290cr
onmanorama article image - 1
Voters wait in queues at a polling station made from shipping container during the first phase of Gujarat Assembly elections, at Aliabet, an isolated place in Bharuch district, on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. Photo: PTI.

Ahmedabad: An average voter turnout of 56.88 per cent was recorded till 5 pm on Thursday in the first phase of Gujarat Assembly Elections in 89 seats across 19 districts of Saurashtra-Kutch and southern regions of the state, the Election Commission said. At 3 pm, 48.48 per cent turnout was recorded.

Polling began at 8 am, to decide the fate of 788 candidates and it was held across 14,382 polling stations, of which 3,311 are in the urban and 11,071 in rural areas, the office of the state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) said.

Modi's roadshow
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's more than 30-km-long roadshow in Ahmedabad city, where polling will be held in the second phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections, started from Naroda village on Thursday evening.

A large number of people standing on both sides of the route welcomed Modi during the roadshow that began around 5.20 pm. Standing on a specially-designed vehicle, the prime minister waved back at the crowd.

The mega roadshow will cover the eastern side of Ahmedabad and ends at the IOC circle in the Chandkheda area on the city's western side, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said in a release.

The roadshow is scheduled to pass through various parts of the city, including Hirawadi, Hatkeshwar, Maninagar, Danilimda, Jivraj Park, Ghatlodia, Naranpura and Sabarmati. It will cover 13 seats of Ahmedabad city as well as Gandhinagar-South, the release said.

Urban voter turnout low
Constituency-wise voting shows a huge difference between enthusiasm for voting in tribal reserve seat Nizar at 66.42%, Kaprada (64.45%), whereas in the urban areas it was 42.90% in Rajkot West and 43.42% in Rajkot South.

Live webcasting was done from 13,065 polling stations to keep a close eye on the process.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has ruled Gujarat for 27 years, is trying to retain power in the state for the seventh term in a row.

If it succeeds, it will equal the record of the Left Front government which won the West Bengal elections for seven consecutive terms till 2011.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi being garlanded during a public meeting ahead of Gujarat Assembly elections, in Rajkot, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. Photo: PTI Photo

This time, the BJP faces competition not just from its traditional rival Congress but also the new poll entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has tried to position itself as the main challenger of the ruling party.

The BJP and the Congress are contesting in all 89 seats.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP is contesting in 88 seats. Its candidate from Surat East constituency had withdrawn his candidature, leaving the party with one less seat to contest in the first phase.

Gujarat elections
Polling officials for Gujarat elections. Photo: PTI

Apart from the BJP, Congress and AAP, 36 other political outfits including the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) have also fielded candidates in various seats up for grabs the first phase.

The BSP has fielded 57 candidates, BTP 14 and CPI-M four candidates.

As many as 339 independents are also in the fray in the first phase.

In the 2017 elections, the BJP won 48 out of these 89 seats, the Congress won 40, while one seat was bagged by an independent candidate.

Of the total 788 candidates in fray, 70 are women including nine fielded by the BJP, six by the Congress and five by the AAP.

He claimed people are so scared of BJP that they shy away from openly admitting support for the AAP in the Gujarat Assembly elections: Twitter/AAPGujarat

Out of the total 4,91,35,400 registered voters in Gujarat, 2,39,76,670 are eligible to cast their votes in the first phase. There are 5.74 lakh voters in the age group of 18-19 years, and 4,945 above the age of 99 years who are eligible to cast their votes, the state CEO's office said.

The election body has set up 89 'model polling stations' and as many eco-friendly polling stations. There are 89 stations run by differently-abled and 611 by women.

A total of 34,324 ballot units, an equal number of control units, and 38,749 Voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines are being used for the election in the first phase, the release said.

It also said that 2,20,288 trained officers and employees have been deployed for the smooth conduct of the election process.

Besides, 27,978 presiding officers and 78,985 polling officers are also on duty, it said.

The AAP has anchored its campaign around a host of "guarantees" such as free electricity up to 300 units a month, unemployment allowance and government jobs.

The Congress has made a similar pitch while promising a cooking gas cylinder for Rs 400, free electricity and English medium schools, among others.

The BJP seems firm on the ground with its development and Hindutva agenda, the promise of 20 lakh jobs, setting up of an 'anti-radicalisation' cell, and implementation of the Uniform Civil Code in the state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned extensively for the BJP in the run-up to the election.

The first phase of election will decide the fate of AAP's chief ministerial candidate Isudan Gadhvi, who is contesting from Khambhalia seat in Devbhumi Dwarka district. AAP state unit president Gopal Italia is contesting from Katargam in Surat.

Rivaba Jadeja, the wife of cricketer Ravindra Jadeja, is another prominent contender from Jamnagar (North).

BJP MLAs Harsh Sanghavi and Purnesh Modi (both contesting from different seats in Surat) as well as five-time legislator Parshottam Solanki (Bhavnagar-Rural) are also contesting in the first phase.

Sitting Congress MLAs like Lalit Kagathara, Lalit Vasoya (both from seats in Rajkot) and Mohammad Javed Pirzada are also in the fray in the first phase from seats in Saurashtra region.

Seven-time MLA and veteran tribal leader Chhotu Vasava is contesting from Jhagadia in Bharuch.

Bhupendra Patel
Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel during a roadshow ahead of Gujarat Assembly elections, in Ahmedabad, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. Photo: PTI

With 54 seats, the Saurashtra-Kutch region is crucial for the Congress as it seeks to improve its performance.

In the region, the Congress won 30 seats in 2017 compared to 16 in the 2012 election. The BJP, on the other hand, was reduced to 23 seats in 2017 as against 35 won by it in the previous election.

In south Gujarat, the Congress in 2017 improved its tally to 10 compared to six in the previous polls, while the BJPs tally dropped to 25 in the last election from 28 earlier.

South Gujarat also comprises Surat city with 12 seats which have remained the BJP's bastion since a long time.

Voting for the second phase in 93 seats will be held on December 5. The counting of votes will be taken up on December 8. 

BJP slams Kharge for 'Ravan' remarks against Modi

On the eve of the Gujarat assembly polls' first phase, the BJP on Wednesday intensified its attack on the Congress over its president Mallikarjun Kharge's 'Ravan' jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said people will give a befitting reply to the opposition party.

During a roadshow here, BJP president J P Nadda said Kharge's barb and another Congress leader Madhusudan Mistry's 'aukat' remark at Modi expose the party's mindset and betray its frustration as the party stands nowhere while the BJP is getting one-sided support across the state.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told reporters that the people of Gujarat will give a befitting reply to those using abusive words for the prime minister who, he asserted, is Gujarat's "honour and pride".

Nadda alleged that Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have been unable to reconcile themselves to accepting Modi as prime minister and often used objectionable comments against him. Their party's leaders have taken cue from them in targeting Modi, he said.

"Any leader using such a language in democracy should be ashamed. People of India love and trust Modi," the BJP chief said.

Addressing a poll rally in Gujarat on Monday, Kharge had said the prime minister asks people to vote "looking at his face" in all elections. "Are you 100-headed like Ravan?" he had asked.

The BJP dubbed Kharge's remarks an insult to the people of Gujarat.

Kharge's "Ravan" remark against Modi reflects the mentality of the "entire Congress leadership", Singh said.

"Modi is Gujarat's honour and pride in the 21st Century. And today, foul language is being used by the Congress for our prime minister," he said.

The BJP also posted on social media a collage of various controversial comments made by Congress leaders, including Sonia Gandhi's "maut ke saudagar" remark in 2007, targeting Prime Minister Modi.

EC seizes cash, freebies worth Rs 290cr

Cash, drugs, liquor and freebies worth over Rs 290 crore have so far been seized in poll-bound Gujarat, which is over 10 times the recoveries made during the entire 2017 assembly election period in the state.

According to the Election Commission, its planning and monitoring through various enforcement agencies have led to record seizures during the election process in the state.

One significant "ongoing seizure process of heavy consignment of drugs" is being led by a team of officers of ATS Gujarat which is carrying out an operation in Vadodara (Rural) and Vadodara City.

The team has identified two mephedrone drug manufacturing units and unearthed about 143 kg of mephedrone (synthetic drug) worth about Rs 478 crore.

They have detained five persons from Nadiad and Vadodara and a criminal case is being registered in ATS Police Station, Ahmedabad under relevant sections of the NDPS Act, 1985.

"The operation is in progress and complete details will be made available once the operation is completed," the poll panel said.

The total seizures in the 2017 Gujarat assembly election were Rs 27.21 crore. As on November 29, total seizures stood at Rs 290.24 crore -- 10.66 times of seizures in 2017.

Besides the contraband seized in the ongoing operation by Gujarat ATS, drugs worth Rs 61.96 crore have been recovered.

Over four lakh litres of liquor worth Rs 14.88 crore has been recovered from the dry state, EC data said.  

(With inputs from IANS and PTI)

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