National

Guj polls: 11 pc voter turnout in first two hours

Ahmedabad: Around 11 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the initial two hours during polling on 89 seats of Saurashtra and South Gujarat regions in the first phase of the crucial Gujarat assembly polls.

After the polling process began at 8 am, people could be seen stepping out of their homes despite cold weather and queuing up to exercise their franchise at the polling stations.

According to officials, around 11 per cent voting has been recorded in the first two hours.

Although there were reports of technical glitches in EVMs in Surat and some other centres, the polling process resumed after the machines were replaced, officials of the Election Commission said.

In the first two hours, several important leaders and candidates cast their votes, including Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, his opponent on Rajkot-West seat Indranil Rajyaguru, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, Gujarat BJP chief Jitu Vaghani and Congress MLA of Amreli seat Paresh Dhanan, among others.

Cricketer Cheteshwar Pujara also cast his vote in Rajkot.

A total of 89 seats out of 182 -- spanning the Saurashtra and south Gujarat regions -- are up for grabs in the first phase with 977 candidates in the fray.
Prominent candidates for today's battle include Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who is contesting from Rajkot (West), Congress' Shaktisinh Gohil (Mandvi) and Paresh Dhanani (Amreli).

The election is being viewed as a prestige battle for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a litmus test for the leadership of soon-to-be Congress chief Rahul Gandhi. The election is a crucial battleground for the Congress and the BJP before 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The poll campaign shaped up as a duel between Modi and Gandhi, and often turned personal.

The Congress, in political wilderness in Gujarat for nearly 22 years, is desperate to break the jinx. It has raised issues such as the BJP's "hollow development model", besides demonetisation and GST.

Gandhi emerged as the Congress' pivot to take on the might of the prime minister on his home turf.

While Modi addressed about 15 rallies, Gandhi spent more than seven days in Saurashtra and south Gujarat, addressing a number of meetings. PTI 

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