Gujarat polling ends amid concerns over low turnout


Ahmedabad : Voting in Gujarat’s 26 Lok Sabha constituencies concluded Thursday afternoon though the voting figure was expected to be on the lower side as many of the 3.64 crore voters did not vote in the heat wave sweeping the state.

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Unofficial figures put the voter turnout at 35 percent. But Gujarat’s Chief Electoral Officer Anita Karwal said the official figure would be available only by 7 p.m. as many of the voters came to the polling booths only during the half an hour before the closing time of 5 p.m.

About 20 percent turnour was recorded in the first three hours after the polling started at 7 a.m. However, the figure climbed to a mere 25 percent by 2 p.m., according to election officials.

The Gandhinagar constituency, from where the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) senior leader L.K. Advani is contesting, recorded 32 percent voting, according to early estimates.

The Panchmahal constituency, from where Textiles Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela of the Congress is contesting, recorded an estimated 31.68 percent voter turnout.

Advani, accompanied by his wife Kamla, cast his ballot in Shahpur in the Ahmedabad (West) Lok Sabha constituency around 9.30 a.m.

They could not vote in Gandhinagar, from where the BJP veteran is contesting, as their names were not in the voters’ list there after the delimitation exercise.

Advani expressed confidence that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would come to power after the general elections.

“I am sure that BJP will emerge as the single largest party and NDA as the biggest coalition in the Lok Sabha will form the government,” Advani said.

Chief Minister Narendra Modi cast his ballot at 9 a.m. at a booth in Ranip, under the Gandhinagar constituency.

Modi, who was accompanied by a large number of BJP supporters, told reporters after voting that “people of Gujarat will ensure that the BJP wins the Lok Sabha poll with a thumping majority in the country”.

“We will ensure that senior BJP leader L.K. Advani wins with a big majority of votes in Gujarat,” the chief minister added.

Gujarat is witnessing largely a direct contest between the state’s ruling BJP and the Congress. In 2004, the BJP had won 14 seats while the Congress had secured 12.

Polling has been largely peaceful in the state amid unprecedented security arrangements, but workers of the BJP and Congress clashed at a polling booth in a village and that quickly spread to nearby Godhra.

A train-burning tragedy at Godhra, about 140 km from here, had sparked statewide communal violence in 2002.

The clash took place around 10 a.m. after a group of Congress workers accused the BJP workers of prodding voters near the polling station in Shera village to cast votes for their candidate.

A police officer said workers of both parties were injured. No arrest has been reported so far.