The countryside seemed the bright spot, somewhat making up for the cities’ indifference towards the polls despite impassioned appeals for a large turnout from the star campaigners, led by PM Narendra Modi, and the Election Commission. State chief electoral officer P Bharathi said the final figure was likely to be around 62%, which would still be nearly 8% less compared to the second-phase turnout five years ago.
Tharad and Deodar in rural Banaskantha topped the turnout stakes with 78% and 74% respectively. From patients on oxygen support and senior citizens, a few of them centenarians, and people from the transgender community were among those who kept the booths buzzing as the day wore on.
In the 23 urban seats of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Gandhinagar, the slump in voting was stark, dropping to 52.5% from 67% in Phase 2 of 2017. Ahmedabad fared the worst (51.4%) among the three, followed by Vadodara (54.53%) and Gandhinagar (52%).
The tribal belt, traditionally a high-turnout zone, disappointed as well. The 13 tribal seats together toted up 58.4% voting, plunging from 67.6% in the second phase five years ago. The six SC seats didn’t do any better, dropping from 69.7% in 2017 to 57.5%.
Stray violence was reported in Panchmahal and Dahod, with Congress candidate Prabhatsinh Chauhan‘s car being pelted with stones after friction between party workers in a village he was visiting to verify complaints about bogus voting. A Congress worker was stabbed in Magalar village during a quarrel with alleged BJP rivals in a polling booth. Pirozepur village near Vadgam witnessed an altercation between BJP and Congress workers.
Gujarat BJP president CR Paatil made light of the turnout being lower than expected. “Although the voting in terms of percentage was low compared to 2017, the number of voters who exercised their democratic right was much higher. We are confident of breaking all previous records. Even if AAP and Independents corner votes, it will only hurt Congress,” he said.
Congress alleged that the government machinery facilitated slow voting and electoral malpractice at several booths across 15 seats. State Congress president Jagdish Thakor said, “BJP workers attacked our candidates, attempted bogus voting and tried to influence the electoral process. BJP panicked over the low turnout everywhere. We are confident of winning 125 seats.”
AAP’s CM face Isudan Gadhvi said people voted for change. “W will win 105 seats,” he claimed.
A clutch of big names that include CM Bhupendra Patel and eight ministerial colleagues, besides caste-agitation leaders Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor, are among the 833 candidates seeking election from seats spread across the central and north Gujarat districts.