Rajkot/Ahmedabad: A record 67 per cent voter turnout was registered in the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections on Thursday in the biggest electoral test for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart and Chief Minister Narendra Modi who is seeking a third straight term. The fate of state's top political leaders including the the fledgling Gujarat Parivartan Party(GPP) president Keshubhai Patel - a former chief Minister and Modi's bete noire, BJP's RC Faldu and Congress's Arjun Modhwadia were sealed in Thursday's voting in 87 of the 182 Assembly constituencies.
The voting, held amid tight security, was peaceful barring a couple of incidents of violence and a few complaints of technical glitches in Electronic Voting Machines(EVM). "Approximately 67 per cent voting has taken place in the phase one of the state elections," Additional Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar said in Ahmedabad. The second phase will be held on December 17 while the counting of votes will be taken up on December 20.
Thursday's polling covered 48 in seven districts of Saurashtra region, 35 seats in seven districts of south Gujarat and four seats in Ahmedabad district. A high voter turnout in Saurashtra and South Gujarat is being considered significant by the political observers. The Saurashtra region, which is home to the powerful Patel community, could pose a tough challenge to Modi with Keshubhai Patel, who quit the BJP to form GPP, leading the charge. Modi succeeded Patel in 2001 as Chief Minister before he led BJP to thumping victories in 2002 and 2007.
Thursday's voter turnout is the highest in the elections held so far in Gujarat. The highest polling recorded earlier was 63.70 per in 1967 elections. In 2007, the voter turnout was 59.77 per cent. Even in 2002, when Gujarat was riding on the pro-BJP wave, 61.55 per cent voting was recorded.