Voting for general elections to six municipal corporations in the state – Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar – saw a tardy pace and low turnout on Sunday.
As per the official website of the Gujarat State Election Commission (SEC), the six municipal corporations reported an average 43% voting. State Election Commissioner Sanjay Prasad said that polling has finished peacefully without any major untoward incident.
Ahmedabad saw the lowest voters’ turnout at 39.54% while Jamnagar witnessed the highest turnout of 52.49%. Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Vadodara and Surat, Jamnagar registers highest turnout, Ahmedabad lowest witnessed 47.27%, 46.67%, 45.48% and 45.09% voting respectively.
Total 1.14 registered voters were expected to cast their votes in the elections for 575 seats in 144 wards. BJP candidate was elected uncontested in one seat in Naranpura ward of Ahmedabad.
The average voting percentage figure is 2% less, compared to 2015 figures when the six cities witnessed average 45.67% voting. Jamnagar had topped the voting percentage in 2015 as well with 56.76%. Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot and Bhavnagar saw 46.61%, 39.63%, 48.71%, 49.72% and 47.41 percentage voting respectively.
In a video statement, Prasad stated that the voting completed peacefully and thanked all voters, political parties and administrative officials and police personnel for their cooperation. Prasad also appealed to the people to vote in the elections to 31 district panchayats, 231 taluka panchayats and 81 municipalities on February 28.
Meanwhile, the Gujarat Congress lodged nine complaints with the SEC regarding alleged discrepancies in voters’ list, alleged attempts to intimidate voters, and alleged faulty EVM machines in Ahmedabad civic polls.
The elections due in December, were delayed on account of the Covid pandemic.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani who was admitted at UN Mehta Institute of Cardiology and Research Centre after he was diagnosed with Covid 19 on Monday, tested negative for the viral infection in the afternoon and went to Rajkot to cast his vote in an air ambulance. He cast his vote while being accompaniedby wife, Anjali.
Union home minister Amit Shah and Gujarat BJP president C R Paatil cast their votes in Ahmedabad and Surat respectively.
After casting his vote in Naranpura area along with son Jay and their families, Shah addressed media persons and said, “From today, elections to local bodies have begun. The development journey of Gujarat began when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. All inclusive development had begun whether it was jungle, mountainous terrain, coastline area, urban or rural area. And that journey has today become exemplary for the entire country… I am confident that Gujarat, from where the victory journey had begun, will reinforce itself as a strong bastion of BJP once again after these elections.”
State BJP president C R Paatil who vote in Khatodara area told mediapersons , “Among six municipal corporations that are going to polls today, the BJP has been in power in four for 25 years, while the other two for 35 years… I am sure that this time also the voters of Gujarat will give their vote for BJP and contribute to the development of Gujarat… BJP has gained the trust of the people…”
In the second half of the day as the turnout was low, the BJP issued two videos of party MLA and Gujarati film start Hitu Kanodia and noted television star Mayur Vakani exhorting people to vote.Kanodia said that if people cast their votes then they can rightfully hold elected candidates accountable for any work or lack of it. Vakani, too, said that it is the right and duty of a citizen to vote to keep the democracy vibrant and alive.
Gujarat BJP general secretary Bhargav Bhatt told this newspaper that the low voter turn out in the entire state was a reflection of the defeat conceded by the Congress party. “We have won 243 seats uncontested in the local body polls, a week before the first round of voting… If you study the pattern of the corporation polls, you will notice that the wards where the Congress candidates have actually put up a fight are the ones where the turn out is also higher. Where the Congress has not fought, the advantage will remain with the BJP…”
Bhatt added that voting day being a Sunday, contributed to the “inertia” that voters tend to exhibit in local body polls. “Much against the opposition claim that it is the anti-incumbency factor, the low voter turnout is a sign that the voters are satisfied with the way things are going.”
According to Balubhai Patel, chairman of Gujarat Congress Election Coordination Committee, two complaints were lodged to the SEC on Sunday regarding alleged attempts to intimidate voters in Vatva.
“It is to bring to your notice that at polling booths 62 to 71 of Ward No. 47 Vatva, two defiant persons Nasikmulla and Munnabhai were intimidating voters… Similarly, at polling booths 34 and 35 of Vatva ward, a person Nasirkhan and his associates were intimidating voters,” said Patel in his complaints.
Apart from the two complaints, the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) also lodged a complaint regarding a woman voter listed at a polling booth at Pankaj School in Navrangpura Ward 18 whose vote was allegedly cast before she reached the booth.
The GPCC also lodged complaints t regarding “EVM malfunctioning” at polling booths at Asarwa Ward Booth number 46, Maktampura ward number 34 and booth number 3 in Lambha ward. The Congress also lodged a complaint regarding alleged denial of entry to Congress agent to Sheetal Gaurav School polling booth in Vatva and detainment of Congress candidate Raju Thakor in Vejalpur.
The Congress also submitted a complaint against CM Vijay Rupani using a helicopter to reach Rajkot to cast his vote claiming violation of poll guidelines.
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