Ahmedabad: Most of the exit polls surveys have predicted a thumping majority for the ruling BJP in Gujarat which is seeking a seventh term in 2022.
The counting of votes in Gujarat, where BJP has been in power since 1995, will take place on December 8. In Gujarat, the Assembly Elections were held in two phases on December 1 and 5. During the first phase election in 89 seats, the voter turnout was 63.31%, nearly five percentage points lower than in 2017 on the same seats.
The second phase voter turnout for the 93 seats stood at 64.39% on Tuesday. This figure is also significantly lower than in 2017 when the voting percentage was 69.99% in the same seats.
Altogether, 1,621 candidates are vying for the 182 seats.
With this the overall voting for the 2022 Gujarat Assembly elections, both phases combined comes to 63.85% which is 4.54 percentage points lower than the 2017 turnout of 68.43%. In 2012 when BJP had a clear majority with 115 seats the voter turnout of 71.3%, about 7.45 percentage points higher than the 2022 turnout.
The exit polls released by various agencies about an hour after the voting for the second phase ended on Monday predicted a big mandate for the BJP in Gujarat in the range of 117-151 seats in the 182-member assembly. The prediction for the opposition Congress in the range of 16-51 seats, which is significantly lower than in 2017 when it bagged 77 seats and BJP was left with just 99.
For the new entrant in Gujarat politics, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the exit polls have projected 2-13 seats.
The Aaj Tak-Axis My India predicted 129-151 seats for the BJP, 16-30 seats for the Congress and 9-21 seats for the Aam Aadmi Party in Gujarat, while the ABP News C-Voter predicted 128-140 seats for the BJP, 31-43 for the Congress and 3-11 for AAP.
News 24-Today's Chanakya also predicted a massive majority for the BJP with a projection of 150 seats followed by 19 for Congress 19 and 11 for AAP.
News X-Jan Ki Baat exit poll said the BJP was likely to get 117-140 seats, Congress-NCP 34-51, AAP 6-13 and others 1-2. The Republic TV P-MARQ predicted 128-148 seats for BJP, the Congress-NCP would get 30-42, while AAP would get 2-10. It predicted 0-3 seats for others.
TV9 Gujarati forecast that the BJP would get 125-130 seats, Congress-NCP 40-50, AAP 3-5 and others 3-7. The India TV-Matrize exit poll suggested that BJP was likely to get 112-121, Congress 51-61 and AAP 1-7. Zee News-BARC poll gave the BJP 110-125, 45-60 to the Congress and 1-5 to AAP.
While the exit polls may predict a huge and comfortable victory for the BJP, political observers believe that lower voter turnout could hurt the BJP. They point out that in the past whenever there has been lower voter turnout, BJP’s seat tally has fallen. In 2012, when there was 71.3% voting, the BJP had won 115 seats. But in 2017, when the voting percentage dipped to 68.39%, the ruling party’s seat tally came down to 99. In the current election, the voting percentage has gone further down to 63.85%, a fall of over four percentage points.
The pensive mood in the BJP camp is also an indication that voters could spring up a surprise. It will only be known on December 8 when votes are counted.
According to the Gujarat chief electoral officer, second phase voting in 14 districts of Central and North Gujarat remained peaceful, barring a few untoward incidents. As many as 833 candidates were in the fray for the 93 seats.
The state administration received several complaints of malfunctioning of EVMs (electronic voting machines) and VVPATs (voter verifiable paper audit trails) from many places due to which voting at those booths were impacted. People in the number of booths, especially those in the urban areas, complained of slow voting process. Though there were long queues outside the polling booths, the voting process was taking longer time than in the previous election, alleged some voters in Ahmedabad.
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) chief ministerial candidate Isudan Gadhvi and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Sukhram Rathva of the Congress cast their votes in their respective constituencies.
Only two districts, Banaskantha and Sabarkantha recorded voting above 70%. Ahmedabad district recorded a turnout of 58.32%. In Vadodara, it was 63.81%.
Apart from Gujarat CM Bhupendra Patel, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakor, and Congress leader Jignesh Mevani were among those in the fray in the second phase of polls.
Though the polling was largely peaceful, there was violence reported from Panchmahal and Dahod districts where a Congress worker was allegedly stabbed and a candidate was attacked.
Congress candidate from Kalol in Panchmahal district Prabhatsinh Chauhan alleged he was attacked by unidentified persons who also damaged his vehicle. Chauhan who is contesting from Congress after switching sides from the BJP ahead of the polls claimed that the glasses of his car and that of a supporter were smashed. He claimed that this was done by the supporters of his rival candidate Fatehsinh Chauhan of the BJP.
In Fatehpura constituency in Dahod, a Congress worker was allegedly stabbed after he got into a confrontation with workers of a rival candidate present there. Raman Bhagora suffered stab wounds on his abdomen and had to be rushed to a hospital in Dahod.
State Congress president Jagdish Thakor said that despite complaining of slow voting in Assembly seats, the poll authorities did not resolve the matter.
In central Gujarat, the BJP had bagged 37 seats, outnumbering the Congress which got 22. But in north Gujarat, the Congress had bagged 17 seats, while the saffron party got 14.
At least 5,200 voters from three villages in Mehsana district boycotted voting alleging the state government has failed to resolve their long-pending issues, including water shortage. An official said the villagers remained adamant despite the government accepting the main demand to fill up all the lakes in their areas with the Narmada water. This was the third year in a row that villagers from Varetha, Dalisana and Davol in Kheralu taluka refrained from exercising their franchise in different elections, the official said.