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Thursday, 12 December, 2002, 12:51 GMT
Peaceful vote in Gujarat
Voters queue in the predominantly Muslim neighbourhood of Naroda Patiya
There were long queues at some polling stations
Polls have closed in the western Indian state of Gujarat, where electors have been choosing a new state government in a poll that has nationwide significance.

By voting peacefully, the people of Gujarat will show that they are a peace-loving people

Chief Minister Narendra Modi
Turnout was high, with a near record 63% of electors casting their votes, election officials said.

Voting took place amid tight security following religious riots earlier in the year in which more than 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, lost their lives.

I am sure local issues will win over [the] Hindutva [Hindu nationalist] plan of the BJP

Shankersingh Vaghela, Congress president
The polls are seen as a crucial test for India's ruling BJP which has lost control of a string of state assemblies over recent years.

A general election is due by 2004.

"Voting has so far been proceeding smoothly and there have been no reports of any untoward incident," sources in the election office told the Press Trust of India news agency.

There was no violence, but several small protests arose following complaints that people had been left off the electoral register.

Two-horse race

The vote was a straight race between the BJP and the opposition Congress, which analysts said was too close to call.


Election officials inspect voting machines before sending them to polling stations in Ahmedabad
Gujarat votes:
  • 33 million voters
  • 1,000 candidates
  • 37,000 polling stations
  • 181 seats (polling postponed in 1 seat)
  • Results on Sunday 15 December


  • Casting his vote in Shahpur constituency, India's Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani predicted that the BJP would get a "comfortable mandate".

    In the Ranip district of the commercial capital, Ahmedabad, there was a carnival atmosphere as caretaker Chief Minister Narendra Modi cast his ballot.

    He said: "By voting peacefully, the people of Gujarat will show that they are a peace-loving people".

    But a large crowd gathered in his constituency, protesting that their names were missing from the electoral roll.

    'Local issues'

    State president of the Congress Party, Shankersingh Vaghela, said that the voters were in "revolutionary mood".

    Electing a right-wing religious party will only give India the image of a Third World dictatorship

    Yahya, UK
    "I am sure local issues will win over [the] Hindutva [Hindu nationalist] plan of the BJP," he said.

    BBC correspondent Adam Mynott says the right-wing Hindu nationalist views of Mr Modi have capitalised on the state's legacy of violence, further polarising the two communities in Gujarat.

    It has also meant that many other concerns such as water, poverty and employment have been overlooked.

    Congress hopes to capitalise on such concerns.

    But analysts say the election could come down to which side manages to bring its core vote out.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Adam Mynott
    "The polls have now closed and the electronic ballot machines locked away"
    Narendra Modi, Bharatiya Janata Party chief minister
    "I am proud of the record of the government"
    Gujarat conflict in-depth

    Key vote

    Tense state

    Background

    BBC WORLD SERVICE

    TALKING POINT
    See also:

    12 Dec 02 | South Asia
    12 Dec 02 | South Asia
    10 Dec 02 | South Asia
    08 Nov 02 | South Asia
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