Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra ModiReuters

Polling for the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections kicked off at 8am on Thursday, when 846 candidates will be contesting for 87 seats in the 182-member Assembly.

An estimated 1.81 crore voters cast their votes on 48 constituencies in seven districts of Saurashtra. Polling has also begun for 35 seats in southern Gujarat and for four in the rural areas of Ahmedabad.

Security arrangements were in place at most polling booths which will close at 5 pm. Among the voters, 95,75,278 were males and 86,02,557 were women.

The major parties contesting for the Assembly seats in the first phase are the BJP, which is fighting for all 87 seats, the Congress for 84 and the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) for 83.

The first phase will see top contenders like GPP leader Keshubhai Patel, assembly speaker Ganpat Vasava, state BJP president RC Faldu, state Congress president Arjun Modhwadia, Opposition Leader Shaktisinh Gohil and several other state ministers pitting against each other, PTI reported.

All eyes seem focused on Keshubhai, who with a strong hold in Saurashtra, is seen as a grave threat to the ruling BJP in the elections. Despite Keshubhai's strong attempts to hurt its prospects of winning a re-election, several pre-poll surveys said the Narendra Modi-led party will have an edge by two-third majority.

After casting his vote Keshubhai expressed confidence that the GPP will get full majority in the elections and that Modi will be defeated.  

Meanwhile, Modi has taken to Twitter to urge people to exercise their voting rights. He had recently used a 3D avatar for his poll campaign, becoming the first Indian politician to adopt latest technology to reach out to the masses.

"A vote is the foundation of a strong and vibrant democracy. I urge you all to exercise your franchise," he tweeted on Thursday.