The polling for nearly 9,000 gram panchayats of Gujarat largely Tuesday went off peacefully, barring some scattered incidents of violence and a couple of technical faults with voters’ list. Although the exact figures of voting will be known later, the Gujarat State Election Commission (GSEC) said that the voting percentage was likely to hover around 77 per cent. The counting of votes will be done on Thursday. GSEC Secretary M V Joshi said, “The polling went off peacefully, barring some 5-7 minor incidents of disturbances. Last time, in 2011, the gram panchayat elections witnessed 77 per cent voting. Generally, in comparison to the elections of municipalities, district panchayats and municipal corporations, gram panchayats witness higher voting percentage. And looking at the rush of voting today, we think this time also it is likely to hover around 77 per cent.”
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The election assumes importance as it is the first major election in Gujarat after the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre declared demonetisation of currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations. Although the gram panchayat elections are not fought on party symbols, these elections will be important for the general assembly elections due in December next year since a political party having candidates of its leaning in control of gram panchayats will be in a better position to wield influence on the rural assembly constituencies.
This year, total 10,279 gram panchayats were scheduled to go for general elections. However, 1,325 of them were declared samras gram panchayats by the panchayats department where all the ward members and sarpanchs were declared uncontested under the samras scheme. However, the number of samras gram panchayats remained less by 683 in comparison to the previous general elections of gram panchayats in 2011-12 when 2,150 panchayats were declared samras.
Following declaration of samras gram panchayats, 8,954 gram panchayats remained to go to polls. Apart from this, in 483 villages, sarpanchs were elected uncontested. At the same time, 27,183 ward members were elected uncontested. Polling for the by-election of various wards and sarpanchs of 39 gram panchayats was also held Tuesday.
Owing to the dearth of enough Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), the polling was conducted using ballot papers. And for that, 22,382 voting booths were set up in which 44,158 ballot boxes were used. Out of the 22,382 polling booths, 9,575 booths were identified as sensitive or hypersensitive.
For 53,116 wards across the state, around 1.20 lakh candidates are in fray while around 26,800 candidates are contesting for 8,527 seats of sarpanchs. As per the figures of SEC, total number of registered voters for the polls stands at more than 1.65 crore, including 79.6 lakh women. State Election Commissioner (SEC) Varesh Sinha said the exact polling percentage will emerge later as it will take time to compile data of all 8,954 villages. The SEC said re-election will be held on Wednesday on all seats in one ward and for a seat of sarpanch in Kadana taluka in Mahisagar district.