Around 20 percent polling till noon in Gujarat
Around 20 percent voting was recorded till noon in the first phase of the Gujarat assembly elections Thursday, a poll official said
According to Additional Election Officer (Gujarat) Ashok Manek, the voting percentage was around 20 percent at noon. It was 18 percent at 11 a.m., he said.
Among prominent people who cast ballots were Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. Casting his vote at a booth in Bharuch, Patel said the rising voting percentage "shows how much dissatisfaction is there among the people".
Former chief minister and Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) supremo Keshubhai Patel cast his vote in Rajkot. Chandu Vaghasia of the Nationalist Congress Party, cast his vote at Kotda Sanghani in Gondal.
State Congress chief Arjun Modhwadia, who is the Porbandar candidate, also cast his vote.
BJP state leader R.C. Faldu, after casting his vote, said: "We will win with a big majority."
Long queues were seen outside some polling booths as people preferred to come early to vote. Voters in 87 of the 182 constituencies of the state assembly exercised their franchise at 44,579 polling stations.
As many as 17,029 of these stations have been declared as critical.
Of an estimated 38 million voters, 19.9 million are male and 18.1 million are female.
There are a total of 846 candidates in the fray, including 46 women.
The Bharatiya Janata Party is fielding candidates in all 87 seats, the Congress is fielding 84 candidates, Gujarat Parivartan Party 83, and the Bahujan Samaj Party 79. There are 383 Independents, while others are 130.
The largest constituency by area is Abdasa (6,278 sq km), while the largest constituency by population is Kamrej (304,621 voters).
Maninagar in Ahmedabad, where incumbent Chief Minister Narendra Modi squares off against suspended officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife, Shweta also goes to the polls in the first phase.
The voting percentage in past three Gujarat assembly elections: In 1998 - 59.30 percent, in 2002 - 61.54 percent and in 2007 it was 59.77 percent.
The Election Commission has made robust security arrangements to ensure that voting is carried out peacefully by deploying security forces in the areas going to polls in first phase.