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Posted on Dec 13, 09:14PM | IBNS
Around 68 percent voters cast their ballots as polling ended peacefully for the first phase of the assembly elections in politically crucial Gujarat on Thursday, officials said.
Speaking to reporters, Additional Chief Electoral Officer Ashok Manek said: "An average 68 percent polling has been recorded till 5pm."
Amid tight security, polling started at 8 am for the first phase of elections for 87 seats in Gujarat to elect a new 182-member assembly.
Long queues were seen outside polling booths in the state.
Key focus in this phase is on constituencies in Saurashtra region where Keshubhai Patel, former colleague of Chief Minister Narendra Modi turned a rebel, wields considerable power.
Patel resigned from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in August this year to launch a new political party called Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP).
After casting his vote in Visavadar, Patel told media: "We are going to get a full majority."
He said the BJP will 'lose badly' in Saurashtra region.
Urging people to cast their votes, Modi earlier in the day tweeted: "A vote is the foundation of a strong and vibrant democracy. I urge you all to exercise your franchise."
Polling in most of the areas were peaceful, officials said.
However, Congress and BJP workers reportedly clashed outside a polling booth in Valsad district.
In this phase, other prominent contestants are Assembly Speaker Ganpat Vasava, state BJP president R C Faldu and Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modhwadia. Also in the fray is Leader of Opposition in the state, Shaktisinh Gohil.
The 87 Assembly constituencies that went for polling in this Phase is spread over 44579 polling stations in 15 districts from Saurashtra and southern parts of the state.
Of the total 3,80,77,454 voters in this phase, male voters accounts for 1,99,33,543 of the electorates while the female voters number 1,81,43,714.
At least 846 candidates are in the fray in this phase, including 46 female candidates.
Among the 846, the ruling BJP has 87 candidates for all the 87 seats, Congress has fielded 84 candidates while Gujarat Parivartan Party has 83 challengers.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded 79 candidates while there are 383 Independents. Other parties fielded 130 candidates.
The total number of Electronic Voting Machines being used in this phase were 44579.
The largest assembly constituency (area wise) in this phase is Abdasa (6,278 sq.km. approx.) while the largest assembly constituency (Electorate wise) is Kamrej (3,04,621 voters).
The smallest assembly constituency (Electorate wise) is Karanj (1,44,161 voters).
Modi, who is not a candidate in this phase, would try to capture power for his fourth term (third consecutive term) as the CM and is leading in all surveys with predictions of two-third majority.
Modi would fight the polls himself in the second phase from Ahmedabad's Maninagar seat on Dec 17.
The run up to the polls witnessed high-octane canvassing when the Congress top leaders like Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hit the campaign trail to take on the well-entrenched BJP government led by the charismatic Modi.