Braving the soaring mercury levels, people in Vadodara came out to vote in big numbers, according to official figures, with the constituency clocking 70% turnout by 6.30 pm. While several patients arrived in ambulances across polling stations, citizens registered with corporate initiatives to encourage voting also brought out people to the polling booths.
Youth, too, turned out in big numbers to cast their votes. Many of them were first-time voters. At the Bhadra Kacheri poll booth, siblings Farhana Shaikh and Kamil Raza cast their votes hours ahead of their respective nikaah on Wednesday. Their father, Mohammad Afroz, said he had shifted the time of the nikaah planned a year in advance to the evening so that invited guests too could exercise their franchise before attending the wedding festivities. Afroz said, “We are very fortunate that we are choosing the prospective Prime Minister of the country from Vadodara and it is only in the interest of the country to vote.” Kamil, who is pursuing journalism, said he felt proud that he first performed his “duty as a citizen” before beginning his new life.
As polling began in Gujarat early on Wednesday morning, Vadodara, Anand and Chhota Udepur constituencies recorded under 15% polling until 9 am, but all three constituencies inched towards the 70% mark by 5pm. Even as the CCTV cameras were absent from most polling booths, despite the decision of the DEO to install CCTV cameras across the constituency, live webcasting was seen at one of the four booths at MES School in Gendigate. Voters chose to cast their ballots early morning to avoid the heat, with maximum voting being recorded until 1 pm. Across seven Assembly constituencies in Vadodara, Waghodia recorded the highest 71% voter turnout, followed by the city areas with an average of 65% (Savli with 64.13%) till about 5 pm. In many polling booths, senior citizens as well as physically disabled voters cast their vote.
At Narmadaben Phulchand primary school, Champaner in Bhoiwada in Vadodara, 104-year-old Bibiben Rangrej arrived in an ambulance with a flock of nurses and doctors to cast her vote. Unable to speak, Rangrej could not express her views, but her family said she had insisted on being taken to the polling booth. Dr. Parul Banker, who facilitated Rangrej’s visit to the polling station said her team had received 46 registrations for ambulances from wheelchair-bound voters in the constituency.
In Vadodara, early voters included MP Balkrishna Shukla and five BJP MLAs, apart from four members of the Gaekwad royal family, including Samarjitsinh Gaekwad, wife Radhikaraje, Rajmata Shubhanginidevi, who was also a signatory for Modi’s nomination and Mrunalinidevi Puar, Chancellor of MSU. Puar, who was assisted to the booth by members of the royal family, expressed her disappointment at the use of derogatory language by politicians. Puar said, “It is sad to see that all politicians have indulged in the use of unmentionable language during campaigns. It has dropped the level of politics. I am very sad about it.”
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In Vadodara, several senior citizens also cast their vote. In Chhota Udepur, tribal areas witnessed a good turnout. Jenu Devan, Chhota Udepur Collector and DEO, said, “There is a good response at most booths, even in the rural areas.”