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A woman leaves a polling booth after casting her vote during the first phase of Gujarat elections in Panshina village of Surendranagar district. Photo: Reuters
A woman leaves a polling booth after casting her vote during the first phase of Gujarat elections in Panshina village of Surendranagar district. Photo: Reuters

Gujarat Elections 2017: First phase of polling sees 68% voter turnout

The first phase of polls in 89 assembly constituencies in Gujarat saw a voter turnout of 68, compared to 70.7% in the last assembly elections

Ahmedabad: The first phase of polls in 89 assembly constituencies in Gujarat saw a voter turnout of 68%. The turnout in 2012 assembly elections in these constituencies was 70.7%.

“I am happy to report that the poll process of the first phase of 89 assembly constituencies in 19 districts of Gujarat has passed off peacefully," Umesh Sinha, deputy election commissioner said while addressing a press conference in the national capital on Saturday. “The turnout has been encouraging. The polling percentage with respect to all districts in the first phase is 68%. Last time in 2012, it was 70.7% before that it was about 60%. By the time we get a final figure, it may touch previous years turnout," he said.

Though official voting time was from 8 am to 5pm, the EC allowed those standing in queues to cast their ballot even after the stipulated time of 5.00pm.

Kutch, with six assembly seats, recorded the lowest turnout at 63%, while Morbi in Saurashtra and Navsari in South Gujarat clocked a high of 75% voter turnout.

The Election Commission said that this was the first time that VVPAT was used along with Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) machines in such a large scale for elections. The EC added that an inquiry found that the apprehension about possible EVM tampering through bluetooth technology, raised by opposition Congress, was baseless.

The Congress had alleged possible misuse and tampering of the EVMs. “Our leader Arjun Modhwadia has submitted screen shots from his mobile device to EC which shows that they can be connected to bluetooth devices. This issue has so far been found in about 7-8 EVMs in Porbandar," Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said over the phone.

Click here for live updates on first phase of Gujarat elections

The Gujarat elections is the first instance where the EC is deploying VVPAT machines in all the 50,128 polling stations across the state to “inject greater transparency and credibility" to the voting process and allay fears regarding rigging of EVMs.

VVPAT is short for voter verifiable paper audit trail.

Polling is taking place in 89 constituencies spread across 19 districts of Kutch, Saurashtra and South Gujarat regions on Saturday. A total of 21.2 million voters are expected to cast their votes at 24,689 polling stations in Saurashtra and South Gujarat. A total of 977 candidates are contesting, including chief minister Vijay Rupani, Gujarat BJP president Jitu Vaghani and Congress leaders Shaktisinh Gohil, Arjun Modhvadia and Paresh Dhanani.

The Congress is hopeful of a return to power in Gujarat after being in opposition for over 22 years. It’s hoping the trio of youth leaders Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor will sway the Patel, Dalit and OBC votes, respectively, in its favour.

The BJP, however, is hoping form the government in the state for a record fifth consecutive time. It has also set itself a target of winning 150 seats in this year’s Gujarat elections.

PTI contributed to this story.

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