In the gram panchayat elections held in Gujarat on Tuesday, local issues related to corruption in panchayat bodies, caste of candidates and upkeep of the villages dominated the minds of electorates who turned up in large numbers especially in the rural belt located between Ahmedabad and Sanand. In the villages that The Indian Express visited, the villagers were found struggling with demonetisation, however, it was not foremost of their minds. “The basic infrastructure — be it roads or water or sanitation — is good. What we are voting for is the right candidate who can ensure there is as little corruption in the new body that is formed after the elections,” said Laxmansinh Vaghela (40) who had arrived early with his group of friends to vote at a primary school located in Godhavi village, 15 kilometres away from Ahmedabad city.
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“I am not afraid to say this in public. The banks and post-offices in this village are still not able to dispense enough cash to the villagers. There are over 3,000 accounts in our post office and only Rs 50,000 of cash is available on a daily basis. Those having marriages in their homes are the worst affected. This is temporary. What we want is good administrators,” said Ajitsinh Vaghela who shared a cup of tea with Laxmansinh after casting their votes at the school that witnessed an impressive turnout since early morning.
In nearby Manipur village, the local issues and turnout of voters are similar. However, there are voters who came to cast votes for a candidate from their caste. “Most people vote for the betterment of their village. However, in a village if you need to get your work done, then you need to stand together with the people of your caste. So I will be voting for the candidate from my caste,” said Rakesh Patel, a farmer queuing up at the village.
Closer to Sanand’s famous Tata Nano factory, there is a group of villages like Lyava and Khoda where candidates have won uncontested. “Today there is no election in our village which is largely dominated by Dalits. We have chosen one person who will represent all of us. He owes allegiance to the BJP and we hope he will help resolve a land dispute that dates back to 2010 when land was acquired by the Sanand GIDC,” said Mahipatsinh Vaghela, an ex-government employee.
“We also have issues with our water supply as the new tubewell does not provide potable water. We also need an ATM as we have to go all the way to Sanand to withdraw money if the bank is not functioning. The situation has become worse after demonetisation because district central cooperative banks were disallowed from accepting or exchanging old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations,” Vaghela said while talking about the Ahmedabad District Co-operative Bank (ADC) that operates a lone branch in the village that is located a couple of kilometres away from the state highway that connects Ahmedabad to Sanand GIDC.