New Delhi: Counting of votes will be held on Monday for the Gujarat Assembly elections, considered a prestige battle for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his home state and a litmus test for new Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
Counting of votes will be held at 37 centres across Gujarat’s 33 districts, amid tight security. The voting was held following an acrimonious campaign, where both the main political parties indulged in no-holds-barred attacks on each other.
While PM Modi led the campaign for the BJP, Rahul was the pivot of the Congress’ electioneering.
Counting of votes will be done for Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections too. In the hill state, counting will take place at 42 centres.
Gujarat polls: Highlights
According to the final figures released by the Election Commission, the voter turnout in the second phase of voting on December 14, for 93 seats of north and central Gujarat, stood at 69.99 percent.
In the first phase of polls held on December 9 for 89 seats in Saurasthra, Kutch and South Gujarat, 66.75 percent voting was recorded. In terms of numbers, of the total 4.35 crore registered voters, 2.97 crore exercised their right to franchise.
According to the EC data, the tribal-dominated Narmada district witnessed the highest voter turnout of 79.15 percent, while Devbhumi-Dwarka of Saurashtra region recorded the lowest at 59.39 percent.
While the BJP is seeking a sixth straight term in office in Gujarat, the Congress is aiming to stage a comeback in power after being in the Opposition for over two decades.
During the campaign, PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah trained guns on the Congress on issues like Ram Temple, alleged Pakistani interference in the Gujarat polls and (suspended Congress leader) Mani Shankar Aiyar’s remarks.
On the other hand, Rahul persistently attacked PM Modi and the BJP for “not talking about the future of Gujarat” and skipping key issues being faced by the people of the state.
The Congress also stitched a broad social coalition with prominent Patidar, OBC, and Dalit leaders – Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani – in its bid to unseat the BJP.
Patel led a long agitation of his community for reservation, while Thakor led a counter-protest against the inclusion of Patidars in the OBC reservation list. Mevani raised his voice against Dalit atrocities.
The influential Patidar community accounts for around 12 percent of the state’s population.
Himachal polls: Highlights
Meanwhile, the fate of 337 candidates including Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his predecessor Prem Kumar Dhumal will also be known on Monday as counting of votes is taken up in Himachal.
Corruption was the main focus of the BJP campaign with the party training its guns at Singh, while the Congress hit out at the BJP over the issue of GST and demonetisation.
Out of 67 sitting MLAs, 60 MLAS, nine Cabinet ministers, HPCC president Sukhvinder Singh Sukkhu, state BJP chief, Satpal Singh Satti, Deputy Speaker, Jagat Singh Negi and eight chief parliamentary secretaries (CPS) contested the polls along with a dozen former ministers.
Himachal has a tradition of change in government after every election. The BJP ousted the Congress in 1990 and the Congress avenged defeat in 1993. The BJP formed the government with the help of Himachal Vikas Congress in 1998 and the Congress was back in power in 2003. The BJP made a comeback in 2007.
The hill state witnessed a record 75.28 percent turnout. 2,820 counting staff has been deployed for the exercise which includes counting supervisors, counting assistants and micro observers, PTI reported.
Predictions by exit polls for Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh:
Meanwhile, most of the exit polls on Thursday predicted more than 100 seats for the BJP in Gujarat. In Himachal the exit polls projected a clear majority for the saffron party, unseating the Congress.
Today’s Chanakya gave BJP 135 seats in Gujarat and predicted a measly 47 for the Congress, 14 less than the Opposition party has in the current Assembly. It predicted a vote share of 49 percent for the BJP and 38 percent for challenger Congress.
The VMR exit poll predicted 113 seats for the BJP in Gujarat and 66 for the Congress, with the remaining going to ‘others’. On the other hand, the C Voter exit poll gave the BJP 108 seats and the Congress 74.
The CSDS exit survey also predicted a BJP victory in Gujarat and said the saffron party would 117 seats as against the Congress’ 64.
In Himachal Pradesh, the exit polls predicted the BJP’s return to power with a comfortable majority in the 68-member Assembly.
Today’s Chanakya gave the BJP 55 seats and to the ruling Congress 13 seats, with the remaining to ‘others’. It also predicted a margin of plus/minus 7 seats. The VMR exit poll predicted a tally of 51 seats for the BJP. It gave 16 seats to the Congress and one to other.
On the other hand, the CSDS exit poll predicted 38 seats for the BJP and 29 for the Congress in Himachal, with one to ‘others’.