Ahmedabad: A record 68 per cent voter turnout was registered in the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections on Thursday in the biggest electoral test for BJP stalwart and chief minister Narendra Modi who is seeking a third straight term.
The fate of state's top political leaders including the fledgling Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) president Keshubhai Patel, a former chief minister and Modi's bete noire, BJP's RC Faldu and Congress' Arjun Modhwadia were sealed in Thursday's voting in 87 of the 182 Assembly constituencies. Watch: Record turnout in in first phase of Gujarat polls
District wise poll percentage: Bharuch: 67.5 per cent, Narmada: 71.8 per cent, Surat: 64 per cent, Tapi: 76 per cent, Navsari: 72 per cent, Dang: 66 per cent, Valsad: 67 per cent, Junagadh: 67 per cent, Rajkot: 68.8 per cent, Amreli: 65.6 per cent, Porbandar: 63.5 per cent, Jamnagar: 63 per ccent, Surendranagar: 68 per cent, Bhavnagar: 68 per cent, Ahmedabad Rural: 66.8 per cent.
The voting held amid tight security was peaceful barring a couple of incidents of violence and a few complaints of technical glitches in Electronic Voting Machines (EVM).
"An average 68 per cent polling has been recorded till 5 pm," additional chief electoral officer Ashok Manek told reporters.
The second phase will be held on December 17 while the counting of votes will be taken up on December 20.
Thursday's polling covered 48 seats in seven districts of Saurashtra region, 35 seats in seven districts of south Gujarat and four seats in Ahmedabad district.
A high voter turnout in Saurashtra and South Gujarat is being considered significant by the political observers.
The Saurashtra region, which is home to the powerful Patel community, could pose a tough challenge to Modi with Keshubhai Patel, who quit the BJP to form GPP, leading the charge. Modi succeeded Patel in 2001 as chief minister before he led BJP to thumping victories in 2002 and 2007.
Thursday's voter turnout is the highest in the elections held so far in Gujarat.
The highest polling recorded earlier was 63.70 per cent in 1967 elections. In 2007, the voter turnout was 59.77 per cent.
Even in 2002, when Gujarat was riding on the pro-BJP wave, 61.55 per cent voting was recorded.
A total of 846 candidates are in the fray for the first phase. BJP has fielded candidates for all the 87 seats while Congress is contesting 84 and GPP for 83 seats.
A total of 48 seats in Surendranagar, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Porbandar, Jamnagar, Amreli and Bhavngar are considered crucial as political observers are keenly watching how the Keshubhai Patel factor plays out in the region.
People came out in large numbers since morning to cast their vote. Within three hours, the voter turnout was 18 per cent and by 1 pm it was 38 per cent. The figure went up to 53 per cent by 3 pm.