Gandhinagar : Amidst enhanced time provided to enable voting, an approximately 68 per cent of the 2.12 crore voters cast their franchise to lock the fate of 977 candidates for the 89 seats that went to polls in the first phase in Gujarat on Saturday. Official sources said that the polling was by largely peaceful. These were the voting figures at the time of going to press and polling percentage is expected to compare favourably with the 2012 figure of 70.7 per cent on completion of the entire process of voting. Though the slated voting time was the usual 8 am to 5 pm,the Election Commission permitted those who had already queued up to cast their votes even thereafter. Reports of malfunctioning EVMs were received but these were swiftly replaced before voting, official Election Commission sources said.
Senior Congress leader Arjun Modhvadia complained of possible EVM tampering
at three polling booths in a Muslim-dominated area of his Porbandar constituency claiming that some machines were found to be connected to external devices through Bluetooth. “We detected that EVMs at three polling booths in Memanwada were connected to external devices through Bluetooth. When the Bluetooth of a mobile is turned on, a device named ECO105 is shown as available,” Modhvadia claimed.
According to the Congress leader, chips fitted in the EVMs appear to be programmable using Bluetooth and this raises the possibility of tampering. A voting system should be immune to such connectivity,” he said pointing out that he had registered a complaint with the district election officials who visited the booth and saw the display. BB Swain, Election chief for the state said that due inquiries have been carried out and that there is no truth in the apprehension.
Meanwhile, the highest voter turnout was reported from Navsari in South Gujarat and Morbi in Saurashtra, both clocking 75 per cent voter turnout. Kutch brought up the rear with 63 per cent.
Of the 89 seats that went to polls on Saturday, Saurashtra makes for 48, Kutch six and South Gujarat 35. Of these BJP bagged 63, Congress 24 and NCP and JD-U one each in 2012 Vidhan Sabha elections.
Then, of course, there were the usual claims and counter-claims from contending parties with BJP claiming a big win and the Congress doing likewise. This will be a landslide victory for the BJP said Gujarat in-charge, finance minister Arun Jaitley while Congress leader Paresh Dhanani said that this election will prove a turning point for the Congress.
Among the important places that went to polls on Saturday includes Surat, which accounts for 16 seats. Last time BJP had cornered 15 of these. This time, Surat had witnessed several agitations, including those by Patel community and against GST by textile traders. Congress is hoping to retain its Mandvi (ST) seat here and make a dent in this BJP bastion, as Patels hold sway in four city constituencies in Surat.
Bharuch, the hometown of Ahmed Patel, political advisor to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi also went to polls for five of its seats, including tribal strongman Chhotu Vasava of Bharatiya Tribal Party. Vasava is fighting to retain this seat for the seventh time.
In Saurashtra, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani is locked in a fight to retain Rajkot (West) seat held by his party for last 32 years. He is contesting against the richest candidate in the fray and Congressman Indranil Rajyaguru, who specially urged his party top brass to give him the opportunity to take on the chief minister. The profile of this constituency is such that Karnataka Governor and once legislator from this constituency, Vajubhai Vala, came down to vote. The fate of BJP chief Jitu Vaghani too is in the balance from Bhavnagar (West) constituency.
WHY ”VIKAS” MISSING FROM PM’S SPEECHES, ASKS RAHUL: From Our Bureau: Congress Vice-president Rahul Gandhi took a dig at PM Modi for missing “Vikas” (development) in his speeches in the Gujarat Assembly elections. This goes against the repeated declaration by BJP President Amit Shah in the run-up to the elections that the party will seek votes in the name of “Vikas.” Pointing out that BJP is in power in Gujarat for the past 22 years, Rahul tweeted that he asked 10 questions from the BJP’s Gujarat report card but got no reply. BJP also did not release its poll manifesto until close of campaign for the first phase of poll, he said. Rahul asked, “Is it going to be governance only through speeches?”
JAITLEY ACCUSES CONG OF DIVISIVE AGENDA: From Our Bureau: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley accused Congress of disconnecting from its traditional issues and opting for “a divisive agenda of social repolarisation” in the Gujarat elections. In a 2-page analysis of the Congress campaign titled “The myth of Congress campaign in Gujarat,” he said, “The state paid a heavy price for such misadventures in the 1980s and would be very reluctant to repeat this experiment after having liberated itself from caste wars.” He also noted that not a single state leader of Congress is touring the state as the party has clearly demolished its own state-level leadership “and outsourced both its leadership and issues to those who had conventionally nothing to do with the Congress Party.”
Jaitley said the second limb of the Congress campaign has been that the Gujarat model of development does not exist, which has been demolished by the recent data showing Gujarat as the only state growing at 10% during 2012 to 2017, 2% faster than the nearest growing state of Madhya Pradesh. “A double-digit growth rate is unheard during the period of economic downturn. Even the Chinese new normal during this period has been 6.5%,” he said, asserting that 10% growth rate sustained for five years in a row is an evidence of the success of the Gujarat model.
On the Congress promising reservations over and above 49%, he called it a self-deception and constitutional impossibility which will never be judicially permissible and dubbed as “fiscal impossibility” its manifesto showering bonanza of Rs 1.21 lakh crore in terms of populist programmes and a tax waiver of Rs 20,000 crore by the state whose effective revenue income is s 70,000. “The two important limbs of the Congress manifesto comprise of one – a constitutional impossibility and the other – a fiscal impossibility. The Congress Party can well afford this risk since its victory is a political improbability,” Jaitley added.
Modi tears into Cong over tweets by its ‘leader’
Lunawada/Bodeli: PM Modi latched on to tweets by one Salman Nizami who, he said, was a Congress leader to tear into the opposition party for allegedly questioning his parentage. At an election rally at Lunawada the PM said, “There is one Congress youth leader called Salman Nizami, who is campaigning for Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat. He said on Twitter that Rahul Gandhi’s father (Rajiv Gandhi) and grandmother (Indira Gandhi) had sacrificed their lives, while his great grandfather (Jawaharlal Nehru) was a freedom fighter. Then he (a reference to Nizami) went on to ask that Modi should answer who is his father and mother,” quoting from the purported tweets of Nizami.
Responding to PM Modi’s remarks on Salman Nizami, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked, “Who is this person the PM is referring to? Neither is he a worker of Congress nor its youth leader.”
‘PM should apologise for father of India remark’
Ahmedabad: Congress demanded that PM Modi apologise to the country for the “insult” to Mahatma Gandhi by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra who termed Modi “desh ka baap” (Father of India) at a news channel show, and “show courage”
by expelling him, like the Congress expelled Mani Shankar Aiyar for his “neech” remark. “They had the audacity to insult Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi. They can abuse and misbehave with us. On behalf of Congress and 130 crore Indians I want to say, such insult of Mahatma Gandhi by BJP spokespersons won’t be tolerated by us,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.
MODI GREETS SONIA ON HER BIRTHDAY
PM Narendra Modi extended birthday greetings to Sonia Gandhi on her 71st birthday on Saturday. “Birthday greetings to Congress President Smt. Sonia Gandhi. I pray for her long life and good health,” he said in a message on Twitter. She is not keeping good health and hence skipped campaigning for the party in the Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh this time, giving full command to her son Rahul in selecting candidates and leading the party in the campaign.