35 to 40 per cent voter turnout in Saurashtra, South Guj

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Ahmedabad, Dec 11 (UNI) An estimated 35 to 40 per cent of the electors have exercised their franchise in Saurashtra and South Gujarat till this afternoon, in the first phase of elections to the Gujarat Assembly.

Polling is being held in 58 constituencies in Saurashtra-Kutch and 29 in South Gujarat, under a tight security blanket.

Barring a stray incident in Rajkot, where a BJP worker was stabbed by a group of assailants near a polling booth, polling was going on peacefully.

In other election-related incidents, Ishwarsinh Patel, BJP candidate from Ankleswar constituency was prevented from casting his vote as he did not have an identity card, while in Surat, district Collector Dilip Rawal ordered replacement of a presiding officer of a booth for not following the Election Commission (EC) guidelines.

In Bharuch, Amarsinh Rana, a Congressman, was booked by the police for distributing election material with in the 100-metre range of a booth and Kanak Singh Mangrola, a local BJP leader of Surat was also booked under similar charges.

Polling began on a slow note but picked up pace as the day progressed. At noon, South Gujarat reported 30.2 per cent polling and in the past three hours, it has been more brisk.

Over 2500 visually impaired persons cast their ballots with the help of EVMs equipped with Braille language, in Bhavnagar, Surendranagar, Junagadh, Jamnagar, Porbandar districts, said Labhubhai Sonai, of the National Association for Blind.

In Kutch, there was a low voter turnout in the early hours, which increased in the later part of the day.

In Dhoraji and Jetpur, women turned out in large numbers to cast their votes. They seen waiting for their turn in long queues in such villages Mota Bhadra, Nana Vadra, Juni Sankdi, Navi Sankdi, Jetalsad and others.

Polling in six booths were affected due to faulty EVMs, for which replacements were sent. While three EVMs developed snags in Rajkot, two were found defective in Porbandar and one in Jetpur.

While State Finance Minister Vajubhai Vala, who is contesting from Rajkot II constituency, was one of the first to cast his vote, a sulking Keshubhai Patel, who spearheaded the dissident activity against Chief Minister Modi, decided to stay away from the process.

Security arrangements have been tightened to ensure smooth conduct of polls. Over 52,000 central paramilitary forces have been stationed at the booths. Few incidents of terror had been reported ahead of today's polling.

Two crude bombs were today recovered near Vishwakarma Temple in Borsad town in Kheda district (the constituency will go polls in the second phase on December 16). Two bomb-related incidents had happened here in the past as many days. While a minor girl was killed on Sunday and one person injured was injured yesterday in explosions. Seven live crude bombs were recovered by the police the town.

Yesterday in Amreli, a commando accompanying Congress candidate Bhavku Ughad (of Babra constituency) opened fire in the air when an unruly mob surrounded his vehicle. Ughad was one of the BJP rebels who has switched sides, just before the polls.

The results of the first phase polling will be a decisive factor for the BJP, which has been facing major dissidence in these regions. Several dissident leaders are in the fray, prominent among them is Dhiru Gajera from Surat.

BJP veterans Keshubhai Patel and Kanshiram Rana, who have openly worked against Chief Minister Narendra Modi, could impact the poll outcome in Saurashtra and Surat respectively.

Prominent among those whose political fortunes will be decided today are state Ministers Vajubhai Vala(Rajkot II), Water Resources Minister Narottam Patel (Chorasi), Urban Development Minister I K Jadeja (Dhrangadhra), Leader of Opposition Arjun Modhvadiya (Porbandar), and Minister of Finance for State Saurabh Dalal from Botad (Bhavnagar).

UNI

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