AHMEDABAD: A moderate voter turnout of 60.94 per cent was recorded in the second and final phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections covering 93 seats across 14 districts of north and central regions on Monday, the Election Commission (EC) said, a sharp drop from 70 per cent polling registered in these constituencies in 2017.
Gujarat Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) P Bharathi said barring a few incidents of violence, polling for the final phase went off peacefully and electoral fate of 833 candidates were locked in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
With this, voting for all the 182 Assembly seats in Gujarat has been completed and counting of ballots will be taken up on December 8. The first phase of elections on December 1 had covered 89 Assembly seats and recorded 63.31 per cent polling.
Around 5,000 voters abstained from voting at six polling booths in three villages of Mehsana district over local issues, she told reporters.
Provisional voter turnout stood at 60.94 per cent in the second phase of elections covering 93 seats, said the EC.
The elector turnout in these 93 Assembly seats in the 2017 elections was 69.99 per cent.
Gujarat had registered 68.41 per cent voting in the 2017 Assembly elections.
Among districts, Sabarkantha recorded the highest turnout at 68.33 per cent, followed by Banaskantha at 65.65 cent, showed the provisional figures released by the Election Commission.
Voting was lower than the average in Mahisagar at 54.26 per cent and in Ahmedabad district at 55.21 per cent. Another urban district Vadodara recorded 63.91 per cent voting, the poll panel figures showed.
Clashes broke out between different groups in Fatepura seat of Dahod district and Kalol of Gandhinagar district, EC officials said.
In Panchmahal district, a vehicle of Congress candidate Prabhatsinh Chauhan was vandalised, they said.
A total 87 ballot units, 88 control units and 282 voter verifiable paper audit trails (VVPATs) were replaced during the voting, the CEO said.
A VVPAT is connected with an EVM through a printer and allows a voter to check if his/her vote has been cast as per his/her wishes Bharathi said a total of 312 complaints regarding voting were received from different sources, including political parties, emails, call centres and on c-vigil app.
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 outgoing Assembly Sukhram Rathva of the Congress were prominent among those who exercised their franchise.
The electoral fate of CM Patel of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and 832 other candidates, including 285 independents, were decided in the second phase.
Prime Minister Modi voted at a polling station at Nishan High School in Ahmedabad city's Ranip area in the morning. His centenarian mother Hiraba Modi cast her ballot at a polling station in Gandhinagar district.
Union Minister Shah exercised his democratic right at a municipal centre in Naranpura locality of Ahmedabad city.
Isudan Gadhvi voted at a booth in Ghuma locality here. He is the AAP candidate from Khambhalia seat in Devbhumi Dwarka district where polling was held in the first phase on December 1.
Apart from CM Patel, BJP leaders Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakor, and Jignesh Mevani of the Congress were key candidates in the second phase of polls.
State Congress president Jagdish Thakor accused the Election Commission of ''sitting in the lap of the BJP''.
He said despite the Congress complaining of ''slow voting'' in Assembly seats won by the opposition party in 2017, the poll authorities did not resolve the matter.
''We complained of slow voting on Congress seats (won in 2017). We lodged a complaint but there was no resolution...It seems as if the Election Commission is sitting in the lap of BJP,'' he said, lashing out at the poll panel after casting his vote at Naroda locality in Ahmedabad city.
Voting began at 8 am across 14,975 polling stations.
The ruling BJP and the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP contested in all the 93 seats. The Congress fielded candidates in 90 seats and its alliance partner Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in two Assembly constituencies covered under the second round.
Among other outfits, the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) fielded 12 candidates and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) 44. In the 2017 Assembly polls, the ruling BJP had won 51 of these 93 seats, the Congress 39 and independent candidates three segments.
In central Gujarat, the BJP had bagged 37 seats, outnumbering the Congress which got 22. But in north Gujarat, the Congress had won 17 seats, while the saffron party got 14.
Bed-ridden people, patients on oxygen support, senior citizens including centenarians, and transgender persons were among those who came out to vote in the elections.
Differently-abled Ankit Soni, who was born without arms, used his toes to sign a form at a polling booth and push the button on the EVM in Nadiad town of Kheda district.
Cricketer-brothers Irfan Pathan and Yusuf Pathan exercised their franchise in Vadodara.
Many citizens above the age of 100 went to their respective polling booths to cast vote in different parts of the state.
In a tweet, Chief Electoral Officer Bharathi praised 110-year-old Shantaben Thakor, who exercised her franchise in Vijapur town of Mehsana district. As many as 1,400 Muslim electors from Undhela village in Kheda district boycotted voting in protest against the public flogging of some men from the community by police two months ago, community leaders said.
Poll officials, however, denied the boycott claim.
Community leaders said all 1,400 Muslim voters of the total 3,700 voters in the village, situated in Matar taluka, joined the protest and didn't exercise their franchise.
''All Muslim voters from the village stayed away from the voting process as a mark of protest against the public flogging and the administration's refusal to punish the guilty. We gave a boycott call to express our anger at the one-sided action by the police. Till now, no policemen have been suspended for their misdeed,'' Maqbul Saiyad, a local Muslim leader from Undhela, claimed.
However, Kheda district collector KL Bachani cited local poll officials and said there was no poll boycott.
''As per the Returning Officer's report, no such incident has taken place. As per our record, 43 per cent of voters did turn up in Undhela to vote today,'' said Bachani.
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