Following the disappointing voter turnout in the first phase of the elections in Gujarat, the Election Commission on Saturday issued a special appeal to voters ahead of the next phase on Monday, urging them to reverse the "urban apathy".
"Surat, Rajkot and Jamnagar have recorded lower than the state average of voter turnout of 63.3 per cent in the first phase of Gujarat elections," the Election Commission said in a statement. The state had seen a 66.75 per cent turnout in the first phase of the 2017 election.
"While voting percentage increased in many constituencies, the average voter turnout figure is dampened by urban apathy of these important districts just as during recently concluded general election to the legislative assembly of Himachal Pradesh, urban Assembly Constituency of Shimla recorded the lowest at 62.53 per cent (less by 13 percentage points) as against the state average of 75.6 per cent," it said.
"Gujarat cities have shown a similar urban apathy trend during voting on 1st December 2022 in Assembly elections, thus pulling down the percentage of voting in the first phase," the commission added.
The high-voltage campaigning for the second and final phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections ended at 5 pm on Saturday.
More than 800 candidates are in the contest in 93 constituencies spread across 14 districts of north and central Gujarat, including Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Gandhinagar. Votes will be counted on December 8. The first phase of voting for 89 seats in Saurashtra, Kutch and south Gujarat was held on Thursday.
Prominent candidates in the second phase include Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel from Ghatlodia, Patidar leader Hardik Patel from Viramgam and Other Backward Class (OBC) leader Alpesh Thakor from Gandhinagar South. Both Hardik Patel and Thakor are contesting for the BJP.
The main contenders in the elections are the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The ruling BJP is also facing a challenge from rebel candidates in some places in the second phase.
The party's MLA from Waghodia, Madhu Shrivastav is contesting as an independent after being benched this time. Former BJP MLAs Dinu Solanki, Dhavalsinh Zala and Harshad Vasava are also running as independents from Padra, Bayad and Nandod seats.