Narendra Modi interacts with senior BJP leader L.K. Advani (R).- AFP file photo
The Congress rout seemed imminent in Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Gujarat at 11.30 am on Friday with the saffron party candidates, including Narendra Modi (Vadodara) and L K Advani (Gandhinagar) emerging triumphant in 19 of the 26 Lok Sabha seats that went to polls on April 30, and leading in the remaining seven seats.
Celebrations started throughout Gujarat from 10 am as, say BJP leaders, the appointment of a Gujarati becoming PM has become a certainty, triggering speculations over Modi’s successor.
Shockingly enough for the Congress, of the three Gujarat-based federal ministers who were sure to win, Bharat Solanki (Anand) and Dinshaw Patel (Kheda) have lost and Tushar Chaudhary (Bardoli) is trailing.
Former federal minister Shankersinh Vaghela (Sabarkantha) is also much behind his BJP rival.
A jubilant Paresh Rawal (Ahmedabad East), Bollywood star, who was ahead of his rival commented: Mahatma Gandhi had given us independence in 1947 nad now Modi has given second independence”.
A consolation came to the Congress in by-polls for seven assembly seats where it was faring well.
In 2009, the BJP had won 15 of the Lok Sabha 26 seats, leaving 11 for the Congress which later surrendered two mopre seats in by-polls.
Counting of votes for the 26 Lok Sabha seats began at 8 am at 27 centres across the state. First, the postal ballots are being counted. According to Election Commission guidelines, half an hour after the postal ballots are counted, the process of counting votes from the EVMs will begin.
The ‘ballot unit’ was switched on in the presence of senior poll officials and counting agents of candidates and the result command keyed in to get results per machine.
Though the counting will be completed by 5 pm, trends will be available by 11 am. By noon, a final picture could emerge on who would be the major players in the 16th Lok Sabha.
Those in the fray from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) include its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi (Vadodara), former deputy Prime MinisterL K Advani (Gandhinagar) and Bollywood actor Paresh Rawal (Ahmedabad East).
Prominent Congress candidates include the party’s national general secretary Madhusudan Mistry (Vadodara), leader of the Opposition in Gujarat legislative assembly Vaghela (Sabarakantha) as well as federal ministers Patel (Kheda), Bharat Solanki (Anand) and Tushar Chaudhary (Bardoli), the last two were leading at 9 am.
Elaborate security arrangements have been made at the counting centres where the candidates have been allowed inside but not near the counting tables.
There are some 2,400 counting tables in all the 27 counting centres. About 8,000 officials are involved in the counting exercise throughout Gujarat and every counting table has a federal government official acting as a micro observer.
In all, 334 candidates are in the fray for 26 seats in the state where the main fight is between Congress and the BJP.
These were the first Lok Sabha elections when the option of the ‘None-Of-The-Above’ or NOTA button was introduced on the EVMs following Supreme Court directions to ensure secrecy of voters who use this option.
Before NOTA button was installed on EVMs, voters had to fill up form 49 ‘O’ at the polling station which compromised their identity.
Where a paper trail audit or ‘voter-verified paper audit trail’ (VVPAT) has been used, the counting agent can call for a count of the paper slips in the drop box attached to the voting machine, but a final count is taken by the returning officer.
Gujarat went to polls on April 30, witnessing a huge turnout--63 per cent against 48 per cent in 2009, what with Vadodara from where Modi contested recording 72 per cent polling.
Polling was peaceful at the 45,380 booths under the watchful eyes of some 150,000 securitymen.
Peaceful polling was also held for by-elections in seven assembly constituencies of the state with 104 contestants.
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