NEW DELHI: After a high-voltage polling campaign in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, voting began at 8 am today for 89 seats of Saurashtra and South Gujarat regions for the first phase of assembly elections begins in Gujarat. The polling ends at 5 pm.
About 2.12 crore voters exercise their franchise today in what is being viewed as a two-sided battle between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress.
The poll campaign ahead of the first leg of Gujarat election, which has 977 candidates in the fray, saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing a series of public meetings in several parts of the state including the textile and diamond hub Surat.
PM Modi this morning appealed the voters to come out and “vote in large numbers.”
Rahul Gandhi also tweeted and said participation of voters was the “soul of democracy”. “I welcome the young voters who are exercising their franchise for the first time. I appeal the people of Gujarat to vote in large numbers and make this celebration of the democratic festival successful,” he said.
Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP leader Vijay Rupani reached a polling booth in Rajkot West to cast his vote. Mr Rupani faces a challenger in Congress’ Indranil Rajyaguru, the sitting MLA from Rajkot-East and the richest candidate in the Gujarat election.
“We are going to win 150+ seats under the leadership of PM Modi ji, we face no obstacles,” Jitu Vaghani, BJP Gujarat Chief and candidate from Bhavnagar said today as reached a polling booth to cast his vote.
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PM Modi attacked Congress and president-to-be Rahul Gandhi several times during his public meetings, labelling the grand old party as “anti-poor” and “anti-Gujarat”.
In a bid to counter the BJP, which has been ruling the state for the last 22 years, Congress has tied up with the Patidar community led by Hardik Patel. Patidars have been demanding reservation for the community in education and government jobs and Hardik Patl led an agitation to raise these demands in 2015.
Ahead of the first phase of the crucial election, PM Modi addressed about 15 rallies, while Rahul Gandhi spent more than seven days in Saurashtra and south Gujarat, addressing a number of public meetings, according to PTI.
Among the prominent candidates contesting in the first phase are Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who is contesting from Rajkot (West), and Congress’ Shaktisinh Gohil (Mandvi) and Paresh Dhanani (Amreli).
The second phase of Gujarat elections is scheduled for December 14 and results will be declared on December 18.