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Dec 17, 2012 at 06:59pm IST

Gujarat polls: 70 pc turnout in last phase, BJP MLA held over shootout

Ahmedabad: 5.36 pm: The voter turnout in the second and final phase of Gujarat assembly elections on Monday was 70 per cent. The turnout has been the same as that in the first phase of polling in the state on December 13.

5.05 pm: The voting on Monday closed in the second and final phase of the assembly elections in Gujarat. Millions cast their ballot at 23,318 polling stations in Kutchh, north Gujarat and central Gujarat. Elections in the second phase were held in 95 of the 182 constituencies.

3.43 pm: Around 55 per cent voter turnout recorded till 3 pm, poll officials say.

3.20 pm: BJP candidate Jetha Bharwad detained by police after firing incident in Panchmahal district.

2.40 pm: Congress files complaint with the Election Commission against Modi's comment against Sonia Gandhi. Modi had reportedly said that Sonia had lost her mental balance.

1.37 pm: Around 37-38 per cent voter turnout recorded till 1.00 pm.

1.23 pm: The Gujarat leaders have taken to Twitter to vent their reactions. CM Narendra Modi tweeted, "Cast my vote in Ahmedabad. Looking at overwhelming support of people of Guj, am confident we are heading for a hat-trick." Sanjiv Bhatt said, "Revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall. Go shake the tree." Meanwhile, Subramanian Swamy said, "With all his plus and minuses, Narendra Modi has a spine, and that is his most endearing quality. Rare in India and in any political party."

1.14 pm: BJP candidate Jetha Bharwad shot at in Panchmahal district's Tersang village.

12.20 pm: The polling is still underway and a controversy is already brewing. The Congress has slammed Chief Minister Narendra Modi for going to vote "in a procession".

11.36 am: Over 20 per cent voter turnout recorded till 11.00 am.

11.16 am: Aakashi, Sanjiv Bhatt daughter, says her mother Shweta is going to win. "Our family has full support. We are each other's support. I think she is going to win."

11.11 am: BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain says that the Congress cannot even 'dream of beating Narendra Modi'.

10.50 am: BJP leader Arun Jaitley casts his vote.

10.22 am: Chief Minister Narendra Modi says he is confident the BJP will come back to power. "I want to thank the electorate and I am sure they will lead the BJP to a hat-trick win. You can see the indication of the voters."

10.12 am: Congress rebel Narhari Amin who joined the BJP, casts his vote and says, "I think there is nothing to be tensed about. Six crore people have decided for Modi again. The people of Gujarat have already decided and today they are just making it official. The work that Modi Govt has done, people are happy with Modi. The new 14 per cent voting is also in favour of BJP. Around 117 seats came in 2007 and it will be even more 2014 elections are more important for him. Gujarat people also want him to be PM and Gujarat will also be developed. Shweta Bhatt factor will not work here. Everyone knows Keshubhai. He had no role in BJP."

9.47 am: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi casts his vote in Ranip. Modi was welcomed by thousands of people at the polling booth who were waiting only to catch a glimpse of the Chief Minister. Over 6 per cent voter turnout is recorded till 9 am.

9.00 am: Suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt and wife and Congress candidate from Maninagar Shweta Bhatt cast their votes. The first-time candidate says, "First of all I am going to this constituency and then I will go to vote I am absolutely positive. I had never thought that I would have to do so. I am contesting for the whole society. It is very important everybody should cast vote." Sanjiv Bhatt says, "I am with her I am a part of the system. The fight is against the subversion in the system. This fight is for the Constitution of India. This is the only chance to correct the system. Even last year, I had polled for the same cause."

8.40: Ahead of casting her vote, Jagruti Pandya, wife of slain BJP leader Haren Pandya says, "I have not come up with any expectation or challenge. People know what happened to Haren Pandya. People still remember Haren Pandya."

8.00 am: Voting beings amidst tight security.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has left no stones unturned as it remains apprehensive of a possible dent in its bastion of Saurashtra, courtesy rebel Keshubhai Patel's new party, the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP). The first phase of voting saw a record 70.75 per cent turnout, with the Congress confident that the high turnout meant a certain "regime-change".

In the second phase, the following go to polls:

Maninagar: Chief Minister Narendra Modi's constituency will see suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife Shweta Bhatt challenging his might on a Congress ticket.

Naranpura: The constituency will see chargesheeted-former Gujrat home minister Amit Shah take on Congress's Jitubhai Patel.

Kapadwanj: will see Congress strongman Shankersinh Vaghela battle it out against BJP's Kanubhai Dabhi.

Akota: Saurabh Patel of the BJP will take on Lalit Patel of the Congress.

Ghatlodia: will see Anandiben Patel of the BJP against Rameshbhai Dudhwala of the Congress.

Sidhpur: will see Jay Narayan Vyas of the BJP against Balvantsinh Rajput of the Congress.

An estimated 19.8 million voters are eligible to take part in the nine-hour balloting in 95 of the 182 constituencies. The regions going to the polls include Kutch, north Gujarat and central Gujarat. "More than 70 per cent will vote in this phase too," asserted BJP Rajya Sabha member Natuji Thakor. "North Gujarat is Narendrabhai's (Modi) area. He is the son of the soil. People will vote overwhelmingly for him and the BJP." He added: "We are expecting more votes in central Gujarat than last time."

Senior Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil was equally confident. "I think we will see a heavy turnout in this phase as well," Gohil told IANS. "People will vote in favour of the Congress, given the anti-incumbency." The BJP is contesting all 95 seats, the Congress 92 and the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) of former BJP chief minister Keshubhai Patel 84. Also in the fray are 84 candidates of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and 284 Independents. A total of 49 women candidates are also in the fray. There are 10.3 million male and 9.5 million female voters.

Himmatnagar in Sabarkantha district has the maximum number of 18 candidates while Fatepura in Dahod district has just three - the least number. Abdasa is the largest assembly constituency (area wise) with 6,278 sq km territory and Ghatlodia has the most number of voters (285,998).

The Election Commission (EC) said 23,318 electronic voting machines will be used in as many polling stations, with 10,126 of them dubbed "critical" - an official euphemism to mean they could witness disturbances or violence.

The votes cast in Gujarat - along with those of Himachal Pradesh - will be counted on December 20.

If the BJP wins, Modi - whose image towers over that of the party and who has been chief minister since 2001 - could start playing a larger national role both in the BJP and pan-India politics. A defeat for the BJP could, however, puncture Modi's larger political ambitions and prove a great morale booster for the Congress ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

With additional information from IANS

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