With people coming out in large numbers for polling in the first phase of assembly elections, 53% polling was recorded till 3 pm on Thursday, officials of the election commission said.
Nearly 18 million voters from Saurashtra and South Gujarat regions would be voting on for the first phase where big wigs of ruling BJP and Congress are contesting for 87 seats along side new entrant the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) headed by former chief minister Keshubhai Patel. There are 48 seats in Saurashtra, 35 in South Gujarat and 4 seats in Central Gujarat were the polling will take place in the first phase.
It is estimated that if this trend continues there would be a new record in the history of Gujarat elections. The highest voting in Gujarat was 64.39% during the 1995 Assembly elections, while the lowest has been 48.7% in 1980 assembly polls.
Commenting on the current trend in voting Chief Minister Narendra Modi said, "Its a BJP storm in Gujarat. From the news I am getting, wherever there is voting, all records of previous voting have been broken." Modi was speaking during a public meeting in Siddhpur town of North Gujarat.
"This shows that these elections are not being fought by BJP or its candidates, the people of Gujarat are fighting them. I know the people, I know their problems and also know the solutions to the problems you face," he added.
Modi also attacked the Congress on claiming that there was no democracy in Gujarat and it was only CM running the show. "The speech Rahul Gandhi gave earlier today, he read the same thing this time (from his last speech). They are worried in Gujarat they hear same name. (But) In this nation no one could say anyone's name except Nehru family. If any other name was heard, Congress get disturbed," he said.
"They are disturbed as why people are taking Narendra Modi's name instead of Rahul Gandhi's -- my father was not PM, nor was he a Sarpanch," Modi said, adding that this was the voice of the people not of one person.
Earlier in the day, people had come out in large numbers since the voting began at 8 am and voted for their candidates. All the BJP minister in fray for another term were the first to vote in their respective constituencies.
Other political leaders who cast vote early in the morning included finance minister Vaju Vala, minister of state for fisheries Parshottam Solanki, Congress President Arjun Modhwadia, leader of opposition Shaktisinh Gohil, GPP president Keshubhai Patel, his deputy Gordhan Zadafiya. Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi also cast his vote in Piraman near Ankleshwar in Bharuch district.
Meanwhile, a few minor incidents of violence have been reported from a couple of booths in Valsad district of South Gujarat.
There are 846 candidates fighting the polls in the first phase. The BJP has pitted candidates in all the 87 seats in the first phase while Congress has 84 candidates. The GPP has 83 candidates in the first phase of the assembly polls. There are a lot of Independent candidates fighting in the first phase of polls.