Counting of votes for Gujarat Assembly elections, which witnessed a historic 71.32 per cent voter turnout, began this morning for all the 182 constituencies, with pollsters predicting a third straight term in office for Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Polling in Gujarat was held in two phases on December 13 and 17, and the counting began at 8 am at 33 places in the state where 44,579 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) have been kept in rooms under heavy security.
The postal ballots would be taken up during the first half-hour of counting followed by 2,71,58,626 votes cast in the two phases of polling, sources in the Election Commission said.
Within 3-4 hours, trends will be available and hopefully by 4 pm all results will be declared, they said.
The fate of 1,666 candidates including Gujarat Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues, Congress stalwarts like party state unit president Arjun Modhwadia, Leader of Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil and former Chief Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela would be decided today.
The elections were virtually a three-way contest with rebel BJP leader Keshubhai Patel, a former Chief Minister, launching his political outfit Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) before the polls and main Opposition Congress running a sustained and aggressive campaign against Mr Modi.
Congress had lost power in the key western state in 1990.
Mr Modi, who is the longest serving chief minister, is seeking a third straight term in office and exit polls have predicted a win for BJP.
Apart from the three main contenders, 33 other parties are also trying their luck at the hustings.