Voters in queue to cast votes in Gujarat | Photo: ANI/Twitter
Ahmedabad: An average 34.48 per cent voter turnout was recorded till noon on Thursday for the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections in 89 seats.
Congress leader Paresh Dhanani, the candidate from Amreli seat, and Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) Rajkot-South seat nominee Dinesh Joshi paddled their way to polling stations with gas cylinders tied on the back of their bicycles as a mark of protest against inflation.
The EC in the morning tweeted a picture of a centenarian voter, Kamuben Patel, proudly showing her inked finger after casting her vote at a polling station in Umbergaon Assembly constituency in Valsad district.
Those who voted in the initial hours of polling included senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, state BJP chief CR Paatil, Rajya Sabha member Parimal Nathwani, BJP candidate from Jamnagar (North) Rivaba Jadeja, Congress's former leader of opposition Paresh Dhanani and state AAP president Gopal Italia
While Rivaba Jadeja voted at a polling booth in Rajkot, her husband and cricketer Ravindra Jadeja exercised his franchise in Jamnagar.
Voting began at 8 am across 19 districts of Saurashtra-Kutch and southern regions to decide the fate of 788 candidates contesting in the first phase.
Till 11 am, Tapi district recorded the highest turnout 26.47 per cent, followed by Dang - 24.99 per cent.
Devbhumi Dwarka district recorded the lowest 15.86 per cent turnout so far, the EC said in its latest update.
In Surat district, 17.92 per cent polling was recorded, while in Amreli it was 19 per cent
Seat-wise, Nizar in Tapi district recorded the highest turnout during the period at 27.15 per cent, while Anjar in Kutch district reported the lowest turnout of 11.39 per cent.
A total of 2,39,76,670 voters who will cast their votes by 5 pm today will decide the fate of 788 candidates who are in the fray for the first phase.
Out of the total number of electorates, 1,24,33,362 are males, 1,1,5,42,811 females and 497 are from the third gender. Over 4 lakh PWD voters are eligible to cast their votes.Nearly 9.8 lakh senior citizen voters (80+) and nearly 10,000 voters who are 100 and above are eligible to vote.
According to the EC, there are 5,74,560 voters who are between 18 to 19 years of age while 4,945 voters are above 99 years of age. There are 163 NRI voters, of which 125 are men and 38 are women.
There are 14,382 voting centres, out of which 3,311 are in the urban areas and 11,071 in the rural areas.
Live webcasting of 13,065 polling booths in 19 districts will be done during the first phase of voting. A state-level monitoring room is functioning at Gandhinagar by the Chief Electoral Officer. There will be continuous observation from 6.30 am till the completion of the voting process, according to the EC.
As per the instructions of the Election Commission, the entire arrangement has been made. In the first phase, voting will be held at a total of 25,430 polling stations. Out of these 13,065, polling stations will be webcast live.
A State Level Monitoring Room has been set up by the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, Gandhinagar at Vidya Samiksha Kendra in Gandhinagar, from where all these 13,065 polling stations will be closely monitored. As many as 42 staff/officers in this monitoring room will continuously monitor the webcasting of polling stations before polling begins at 8:00 am. As many as six senior officials will monitor the polling process through webcasting from this state-level monitoring room. Continuous observation will continue from 6.30 am till the polling process is completed.
"In the first phase, a district-level monitoring room will also be made operational in all the districts where voting is to be held. Live webcasting of the polling stations of that district will be monitored in this district-level monitoring room," the EC said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah held rallies and roadshows in the state as the BJP seeks a record seventh term in office.
BJP chief JP Nadda, Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Union Ministers Smriti Irani, Mansukh Mandaviya, Parshottam Rupala, Ravishankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal, Nitin Gadkari were among them campaigned during the first phase of elections.
BJP Yuva Morcha president Tejasvi Surya and leaders Manoj Tiwari and Ravi Kishan also held rallies to garner support for the party candidates.
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot were among the prominent campaigners of the party. Party leader Rahul Gandhi addressed two rallies in the state.
Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann campaigned extensively in the state while making various promises.
Among prominent candidates, Gujarat Chief Minster Bhupendra Patel is contesting from Ghatlodia, AAP Chief Ministerial candidate Isudan Gadhvi from Khambhaliya, former Congress leader and BJP candidate Hardik Patel from Viramgam, former Congress leader and now BJP candidate Alpesh Thakor from Gandhinagar South.
AAP state president Gopal Italia is contesting from Katargam constituency, Gujarat Home Minister (State) Harsh Sanghavi from Majura, Rivaba Jadeja from Jamnagar North, former Gujarat minister Parshottam Solanki from Bhavnagar Rural, Kunwarji Bavaliya from Jasdan, Kantilal Amrutiya from Morbi and Jayesh Radadiya from Jetpur.
Former BJP MLA Madhu Shrivastav is contesting as an Independent from Vaghodia.
The counting of votes will be done on December 8. Results of the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections will also be declared on the same day.
(With inputs from agencies)