Gujarat votes in final round of polling
Thousands voted in Gujarat Monday as the second and final phase of the assembly elections that sees BJP's Narendra Modi aiming for a hat-trick got under way in 95 of the state's 182 constituencies.
"The people of Gujarat will once again vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party," Modi told reporters as the electorate voted to decide if Modi and the BJP get another five-year term or whether the Congress can dislodge it.
An electorate of 19.8 million is expected to exercise their franchise across 23,318 polling stations. The regions going to the polls include Kutch, north Gujarat and central Gujarat.
As many as 10,126 stations have been declared 'critical', official euphemism to mean they could witness disturbances or violence.
Of an estimated 19.8 million voters, 10.3 million are male and 9.5 million female.
There are a total of 820 candidates in the fray, including 49 women.
The BJP is contesting all 95 seats, the Congress 92 and the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) of former BJP chief minister Keshubhai Patel 84. Also in the fray are 84 candidates of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and 284 Independents.
Among the key constituencies that will see polling Monday are Ellisbridge, where slain BJP leader Haren Pandya's widow Jagruti is contesting against the BJP, and Naranpura, where Modi's confidant Amit Shah, a former minister, is a candidate.
The first phase of polling in 87 constituencies Dec 13 saw a 68 percent turnout. Counting will be held Dec 20.
Both the ruling BJP and the Congress have interpreted the heavy polling in the first phase to claim they were poised to win the Gujarat battle for ballot.
"More than 70 percent will vote in this phase too," asserted BJP Rajya Sabha member Natuji Thakor. "North Gujarat is Narendrabhai's (Modi) area. He is the son of the soil. People will vote overwhelmingly for him and the BJP."
He added: "We are expecting more votes in central Gujarat than last time."
Senior Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil was equally confident.
"I think we will see a heavy turnout in this phase as well," Gohil told IANS. "People will vote in favour of the Congress, given the anti-incumbency."
Himmatnagar in Sabarkantha district has the maximum number of 18 candidates while Fatepura in Dahod district has just three -- the least number.
Abdasa is the largest assembly constituency (area wise) with 6,278 sq km territory and Ghatlodia has the most number of voters (285,998).
If the BJP wins, Modi -- who soars over the party and who has been chief minister since 2001 -- could start playing a larger national role both in the BJP and pan-India politics.
A defeat for the BJP could, however, puncture Modi's larger political ambitions and prove a great morale booster for the Congress ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election.