In Gujarat Voters for 89 of the 182 Assembly seats voted in the first phase today. In the outgoing Assembly, the BJP held 63 of these seats and the Congress 16.
The second and last phase of voting will take place on Thursday, December 14. Results will be announced on December 18.
Over 70 per cent voter turnout till 5 pm with many still to vote, the voting percentage is set to cross the 71.32 per cent recorded in the last Assembly elections in 2012, when Narendra Modi returned to power for a third time by winning 116 seats.
The BJP has been in power for 22 years in Gujarat.The BJP has had a walkover of sorts at many seats in election after election, something that pundits say has changed this year.
The BJP believes it will win more than 120 seats. Party chief Amit Shah has said he was gunning for 150 seats. but the poll of polls shows BJP barely crossing the halfway mark of 92.
Congress leader Ahmed Patel expects the Congress to win at least 110 seats.
Electronic Voting Machines have become the victim of propaganda and the Election Commission's inability to allay common fears has not helped. This time, the machine is backed by a VVPAT (Voter-Verified Paper Trail) unit where the voter can verify whether her vote went to the party she voted for.
Yet, a number of complaints has come regarding EVM malfunctioning. The Election Commission says with 24,000 EVMs at work, problems at a few are not out of place.
Polling was held in south Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch regions. South Gujarat's Surat has been in the eye of the storm during the Patel agitation and then a traders' unrest after demonetisation and GST. Surat is the textile hub of Gujarat and diamond polishing capital of India. Traders have traditionally supported the BJP but their anger is being touted as a big reason for Congress's revival in the state. The biggest, of course, is the Patel youths' tilt. Surat is also a Patel stronghold.
Saurashtra is another critical area, both parties hope to turn around. Patels again dominate this region and 12 people had died here during the Patel reservation agitation in this region in the worst violence in the wake of that movement. Patels blamed the BJP government in the state for being insensitive and vowed to avenge the deaths at the polling booth. Reports suggest the BJP has managed to persuade many back into its fold but there is a strong chance of Congress doing better than its last outing here.
The election campaign that began with Congress's Vikas-Gone Crazy and BJP's I-Am-Vikas duel has degenerated into a vicious verbal fight and nobody seems to be pulling any punches. The other factor is the sudden slide into communalism with both parties equally playing their roles in it.
While the Congress and the BJP battle it out at the ballot machines, a village decided to boycott the entire poll process. Neither of the main parties came into their village to seek votes. They still struggle with the basic issues of power, water and roads.
All 1,065 voters decided to not turn up at the polling booth, hoping whoever wins will take note of their plight and lack of vikas after an election apparently fought on vikas as the main plank.