Ahmedabad: The Big Day is here. Gujarat is set for the first phase of elections today, when 87 out of the total 182 constituencies spread across Saurashtra and western Ahmedabad go to polls in round one of assembly elections.
Altogether 1.81 crore voters will decide the fate of 846 candidates, including 46 women.
8.30am: Panchayat Minister Narottam Patel casts his vote at Udhna assembly constituency, the newly-carved out segment from Choryasi.
9.30am: Higher voter turnout is set to play a key role in BJP pocketing more seats in southern parts. Voters can be seen queuing up in large numbers to cast votes in Surat and adjoining areas.
High voting percentage in 2002 and 2007 assembly polls had added to BJP's tally.
9.45am: Viramgam constituency in Ahmedabad witnesses a slow voting of 9% in initial hours. Rathod Kalubhai Chanabhai of the BJP has won the seat in 2007.
9.50am: BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain says the Congress is contesting the elections to save its pride and that the victor would be the BJP.
10am: GPP Chief Keshubhai Patel casts vote at Visavadar, says Chief Minister Narendra Modi will lose the elections this time. The Election Commission has slapped a show cause notice to the former BJP stalwart for travelling in a red beacon car.
Keshubhai, who arrived in Rajkot by a helicopter from Visavadar, went straight to polling booth Saraswati Shishu Mandir where he cast his vote. The EC has taken serious note that he had taken along a pilot car with him. "Using pilot car to reach to the polling booth is simply a violation of election code of conduct and therefore the Election Commission has served notice to Keshubhai," an election officer said.
10.05am: 9 EVMs go out of order at Viragam, Dhangadhra and Dholka in western Ahmedabad.
10.15am: Rajkot records 10% voter turnout in the first two hours, followed by Dwarka 5%, Jamnagar 3.5%, Ahmedabad (Rural) 9%, Jamjodhpur 5% and Navsari 6%.
10.20am: Kodinar nodal officer lodges complaint against actor Govardhan Asrani before the EC over alleged derogatory remarks on Modi government while campaigning for Congress MLA Dheer Singh Barad in Saurashtra. A case has also been lodged against Barad.
10.24am: Modi tweets to urge all to exercise their franchise. "A vote is the foundation of a strong and vibrant democracy. I urge you all to exercise your franchise."
10.30am: EC slaps a notice on Gujarat Congress President Arjun Modhwadia for his alleged defamatory speech on the personal life of Chief Minister in Porbandar.
10.45am: "I have support of the RSS, VHP," claims GPP's Gondal candidate Gordhan Zadaphia.
11am: 20% voter turnout registered in first three hours. Kalavad recorded the highest 20%, followed by Jamru 30% and Dwarka and Jamjodhpur 19% each. In places like Kutiyana where Kandhal Jadeja, son of 'God Mother' Santokhben, is contesting on Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ticket, 36% voter turnout was recorded till 11 AM and officials were expecting a higher percentage of voting.
11.35am: Congress leader Salman Khurshid slams Modi, who has stirred a hornet's nest on poll-eve by writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh against handing over Sir Creek to Pakistan. "If issues such as raising LPG cap from 6 to 9 can't be raised during elections, is this permissible?"
Sir Creek is a 96 km strip of water that is disputed between India and Pakistan in the Rann of Kutch marshlands.
11.40am: BJP corporator and party workers scuffle over an election issue in Surat. BJP MP from Surat CR Patil intervenes.
11.52am: A 50-year-old voter dies of cardiac arrest at Mandal block after casting ballot in Viramgam constituency in Ahmedabad (Rural).
11.55am: At 38%, Gujarat witnesses one of the largest voter turnouts in Saurashtra and Ahmedabad (Rural) in 4 hours.
The first phase of voting sees a unprecedented voter turnout, with a record 18% voters in the 87 seats between 8am and 11am.
Diamond city Surat topped the list with 19% voting in the first three hours.
The first phase of elections will cover 87 seats in south Gujarat, Saurashtra and four seats in Ahmedabad district.
In first few hours, voter turnout was recorded at 7.55%. In the past, voting has never crossed 10% in the first two hours.
Saurashtra also saw high voter turnout, with the highest voting recorded in Morbi, where 10.64% voters exercised their franchise in the first hour. Rajkot recorded over 8% voting.
12noon: Congress-BJP workers clash outside polling booth in Valsad; BJP worker injured and taken to Valsad Civil Hospital.
12.15pm: Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel had to wait for 45 minutes to cast his vote as voting machines malfunctioned in Navsari.
12.20pm: Congress leader Ahmed Patel casts his vote in Bharuch, attacks Modi, saying Sir Creek issue is a "mere poll gimmick".
12.30pm: India will not prosper, not become corruption-free till each state, till the centre has people like Modi, says LK Advani
1pm: Under the leadership of Modi, Gujarat has progressed with positive politics," RC Faldu, BJP state president. ""BJP will come into power with majority," he said.
1.30pm: BJP and Congress workers' fight takes an ugly turn at Talala in Junagadh. Five cars, including the vehicle of BJP youth leader, were damaged.
2pm: Beauty parlours in Rajkot offering free services to customers as part of a voting awareness programme.
2.40pm: "People of Gujarat gave Modi chance for two terms, but the Modi government only worked for handful of industrialists," Shaktisinh Gohil, leader of Opposition in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly.
3.30pm: GPP alleges 'mass bogus voting' by BJP MLA Jairajsinh Jadeja's supporters in Gondal.
3.55pm: Police arrest a 35-year-old man with 43 voter ID cards at Varachha in Surat. Investigations underway.
4pm: Gujarat records an average 55% voting till 3pm, with Dharampur in southern part of the state registering 70% turnout.
4.15pm: Sandhya Bhullar, district election officer of Navsari: "Young voters have come out in huge numbers to vote."
4.30.pm: Lowest voting percentage in the Saurashtra belt was at Amreli district with 46%.
4.55pm: Only one person in Mota Gujariya in Bhesan taluka (Visavadar) casts vote. Total boycott by Dhulkot village in Dhangadhra. An incident of poll boycott was also recorded at Junagarh and Surendranagar.
5pm: Voting ends peacefully on Sunday with a high voter turnout of more than 50%.
6pm: Gujarat records 68% voter turnout till 5pm, which is 15% higher than the 2007 elections when 59.77% polling was registered. There was no incident of booth capturing, deputy chief election commissioner Vinod Zutshi told a news conference.
Tapi recorded the highest turnout of 76%, followed by Narmada 71.6%, Rajkot recorded 68.8%, Ahmedabad 66.8%, Surendranagar and Bhavnagar 68% each, Narod and Bahruch 67.5% each, Valsad 67%, Dang 66%, Amreli 65.6%, Porbandar 63.5% and Jamnagar 63%.
Heavyweights testing the election waters in the first phase are Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modhwadia who is taking on mining baron Babubhai Bokhiriya of BJP in Porbandar and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Shaktisinh Gohil locking horns with state Fisheries Minister Purshottam Solanki in Bhavnagar Rural.
Solanki has been accused of a role in the Rs 400-crore fisheries scam.
Gohil is facing an uphill task post-delimitation as newly carved out Bhavnagar Rural has more members from Koli community than Kshatriya community to which he belongs.
Visavadar seat in Junagadh is expected to see a two-pronged battle with BJP’s Kanubhai Bhalala being pitted against former chief minister and newly-formed GPP president Keshubhai Patel.
State ministers like Vajubhai Vala, Vasuben Trivedi, Narottam Patel, Mangubhai Patel, Kiritsinh Rana, Dilip Sanghani, Kanubhai Bhalala, Mohan Kundaria and Ranjit Gilitvala will also await their fate in Thursday's voting.
Fourth-eight seats in Surendranagar, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Porbandar, Jamnagar, Amreli and Bhavnagar are considered very crucial and decisive as political observers are watching keenly on how former chief minister and 'bete noir' of chief minister Narendra Modi, Keshubhai Patel factor plays out in the region.
Fate of three Congress MPs, Vithhal Radadia (Dhoraji), Kunvarji Bavalia (Botad) and Somabhai Patel (Limbadi), will be sealed on Thursday.
The voting will also decide if Leuva Patel, a politically powerful sub-community of Patidars will be swayed by the appeals and behind the curtain efforts to vote against the Modi government, on the plank of alleged injustice meted out to their leader Keshubhai Patel.
Saurashtra holds key to Gandhinagar
Reports suggest that BJP's tally in its fort - Saurashtra is likely to slide. Some suggest the tally will be as low as 20, others put it under 35. It surely seems set to plummet from 2007's tally of 37.
The decisive factor is going to be the Leuva Patels pitted against BJP and lack of development in the region. Drought, water shortage and farmer suicides are only adding to Modi's woes here.
In a high-profile battle in Visavadar, BJP's Kanu Bhalala is pitted against his former guru and 84-year-old Patel stalwart Keshubhai Patel. Some estimate that the BJP candidate will loose with a margin of 15,000 votes in this Leuva Patel-dominated seat. Patel’s proximity to his community and cricketer-turned-politician Navjyot Singh Sidhu’s jibes here are playing against the incumbent.
Mahendra Mashru, a senior MLA, is battling hard against Bhikha Joshi of Congress and Lalji Savaliya of GPP. Mashru is hopeful in this Lohana dominated area but this time the situation is different. Polarisation of Leuva Patel votes due to GPP entering the fray will dent his vote bank and this in turn, will help the Congress. However, this is a closely-fought contest.
Jamnagar district will see two high-profile contests. State BJP chief RC Faldu is taking on Raghavji Patel, while minister in the state cabinet Vasuben Trivedi is pitted against Jitendra Lall. Both these seats are a concern for BJP; locals believe that BJP is loosing them. The total tally of BJP may come down to three from the five that it held in 2007.
Jamnagar Rural is a new seat that was formed after delimitation of Jodiya and other parts of Jamnagar city, largely dominated by Patels.
Modhwadia needs luck to win
The decision to field Babu Bokhiriya against Modhwadia was considered a BJP masterstroke but politics is full of surprises. Bokhiria appears to have an advantage over Modhwadia as the GPCC president is facing anti-incumbency in Porbandar.
Close contest in Bhavnagar Rural
Shaktisinh Gohil is the Congress candidate from Bhavnagar (rural), while Koli strongman Purshottam Solanki is the BJP nominee. The seat is new for both as their original constituencies were dissolved after delimitation.
The bad news for Gohil here is that he does not have much support in villages like Budhel and Tanasa.
Easy win for Keshubhai
Keshubhai is contesting the elections from Visavadar. After the Congress candidate was unable to file nomination because his mandate was snatched by a kid, the outcome of the election became a foregone conclusion. Supporters of all the parties are unanimous in saying that Keshubapa will win by big margin.
Phase-1 in nutshell
The Janta Dal (U) to contest in 33 constituencies, BSP in 79, SP in 29, LJP in 13, CPM in 5 and NCP in 3. A total of 383 independents from 87 constituencies are also testing their luck.
Limbayat constituency in Surat district has the maximum number of 20 candidates.
Votes will be cast at 21,261 polling stations in the first phase. Surat, with 32.26 lakh voters, has the most number of polling stations - 3,770, while the tribal district of Dangs with 1.44 lakh electors has the least number of polling stations - 320. About 23.87 lakh voters are expected to exercise franchise to elect MLAs from 11 assembly constituencies in Rajkot district where there are 2,589 polling stations.
Male and female voters comprise 95.81 lakh and 86.04 lakh of the electorate. Four assembly constituencies in Ahmedabad district that will go to polls in the first phase - Viramgam, Sanand, Dholka and Dhandhuka - have a total of 1,040 polling stations where 8.66 lakhs voters are likely to cast their votes.
The second phase is slated on December 17 and counting of votes will be taken up on December 20 along with that of the Himachal Pradesh polls.
(With DNA, PTI inputs)
Graphic courtesy: DNA