A record 68 per cent voting was registered in the first phase of polling in the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections on Thursday, in what is the biggest electoral test for Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking his third consecutive term in office.
The polling percentage is the highest in the elections held so far in Gujarat. The highest polling recorded earlier was 63.70 per cent in 1967. In 2007, the voter turnout was 59.77 per cent. While, in 2002, 61.55 per cent voting was recorded.
The fate of state’s top political leaders including that of Gujarat Parivartan Party(GPP) president Keshubhai Patel, BJP’s R C Faldu and Congress’s Arjun Modhwadia was sealed as voting completed in 87 of the 182 Assembly constituencies. A high voter turnout is, conventionally, bad news for the ruling party. However, in Gujarat, higher voting percentage has always benefited the BJP, a reason why state BJP leaders have asked cadres “to ensure 80 per cent turnout”.
The polling took place in 48 Assembly constituencies in seven districts of Saurashtra, on 35 seats in five districts of Southern Gujarat and on four in Ahmedabad district. It’s in Saurashtra region that Keshubhai’s GPP is expected to put up a good showing, eating into the BJP’s support base. The Leuva Patel group--the caste group to which Keshubhai belongs-- is said to be rallying behind their “Bappa” (as Keshubhai is popularly called) and more so, since BJP’s Navjot Singh Sidhu launched a no-holds-barred personal attack against him.
BJP leaders, however, argue that anti-Modi campaign unleashed by Keshubhai has also led to galvanising the support of Kshatriya caste groups (known as traditional Congress supporters) and Koli Patels behind Modi. The BJP also feels that though some Leuva Patels might have deserted the party in Saurashtra region, they are still solidly behind the party in Southern and Central regions.