A record 68 per cent voter turnout was registered in the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections today in the biggest electoral test for BJP stalwart and Chief Minister Narendra Modi who is seeking a third straight term.
The fate of state's top political leaders including the the fledgling Gujarat Parivartan Party(GPP) president Keshubhai Patel, a former Chief Minister and Modi's bete noire, BJP's R C Faldu and Congress' Arjun Modhwadia were sealed in the polling in 87 of the 182 Assembly constituencies.
The voting amid tight security was peaceful barring a couple of incidents of violence and a few complaints of technical glitches in Electronic Voting Machines(EVM).
" 67.65 per cent voting has taken place in the phase one of the state elections," Chief Electoral Officer Anita Karval said in Ahmedabad tonight.
The second phase will be held on December 17 while the counting of votes will be taken up on December 20.
Today's polling covered 48 in seven districts of Saurashtra region, 35 seats in seven districts of south Gujarat and four seats in Ahmedabad district.
The high voter turnout in Saurashtra and South Gujarat is being considered significant by the political observers.
The Saurashtra region, which is home to the powerful Patel community, could pose a tough challenge to Modi with Keshubhai Patel, who quit the BJP to form GPP, leading the charge. Modi succeeded Patel in 2001 as Chief Minister before he led BJP to thumping victories in 2002 and 2007.
Today's voter turnout is the highest in the elections held so far in Gujarat.
The highest polling recorded earlier was 63.70 per in 1967 elections. In 2007, the voter turnout was 59.77 per cent.
Even in 2002, when Gujarat was riding on the pro-BJP wave, 61.55 per cent voting was recorded.
"Just as Gujarat broke the record by registering 68 per cent record voter turnout, the BJP will break all records in winning the state assembly elections," Modi said, addressing an election rally in Vadodara.
The assembly constituencies of Jasdan and Morbi registered 79 per cent polling, the highest in Rajkot district, collector and chief election officer Rajendra Kumar said.
"The voting was peaceful and three was no major incident of violence registered," he said.
Of the 2,582 EVMs deployed for voting, only six had to be replaced, he said, adding there were 64 complaints, mainly pertaining to missing of names from the voters' list.
The average voting in the district was little over 69 per cent with Jasdan and Morbi topping the list at 79 per cent each followed by Dhoraji (75 per cent), Jetpur (72), Wankaner (70) Rajkot East (67), Rajkot Rural (67), Rajkot West (65), Rajkot South (64) and Tankara (60 per cent), he said.
Elsewhere in Saurashtra region, Amreli recorded 66 per cent voting followed by Bhavnagar (65), Jamnagar (65), Porbandar (65), Surendra Nagar (62) Junagadh (59), an official said.