Voting patterns in Surat district, which went to polls Saturday, show that the turnout fell steeply in five seats dominated by Patidars, and to an extent in booths dominated by Muslim voters in Limbayat assembly constituency.
In the Patidar-dominated seats of Kamrej, Surat North, Varachha, Karanj and Katargam, the turnout dropped between 6 per cent and 13 per cent(see box). In the last assembly elections, all the five Patidar-dominated seats went to BJP.
Limbayat is dominated by Maharashtra-origin voters followed by Muslims. Across the seat, the turnout dropped to 65.5 per cent from nearly 67 per cent in 2012. The drop was far steeper in the constituency’s 264 booths include 110 where Muslims are the highest segment. In these, the turnout dropped from 72 per cent in 2012 to 68 per cent Saturday.
“The reason behind low voting in the Patidar-dominated areas is that people have gone home to Saurashtra and North Gujarat to attend social functions and weddings and did not return to vote. I don’t see other reason,” said P V S Sarma, Surat city BJP vice president. And Kadir Pirzada, a senior Congress leader of Surat who is a member of the AICC as well as the election core committee, said: “We are shocked at the low turnout of voters in Patidar areas, but we are sure that from among those who did take part in polling, most of the votes went to the Congress.”
The contest in Limbayat is being seen as close. Besides sitting BJP MLA Sangita Patil and Congress challenger Dr Ravindra Patil, the fray includes NCP candidate Akram Ansari, a former Congress municipal councillor and son of Shakina Ansari, often described as a “woman don” and “Daruwali”. Ansari is looking at the Muslim votes, generally seen as with the Congress. Besides, there is Samrat Patil of the Shiv Sena looking at the Maharashtrian vote that is committed to BJP, plus 14 independents of whom most have Maharashtrian roots.
Out of 2.59 lakh voters in Limbayat, 82,000 voters are Maharashtrian, while 75,000 are Muslim. The third highest segment is North Indians with over 34,000 votes, sources said. Both the Congress and the BJP candidates are Maharashtrian — both belong to the Patil community, which accounts for the highest number of voters in the constituency.
Surat is the epicentre of the Patidar quota agitation. It was here that Hardik Patel was jailed for nine months in a sedition case. PM Narendra Modi addressed one rally in the district. On December 3, Hardik took out a road show in Patidar-dominated areas and held a public meeting in Simada area.
Across Surat, the turnout dropped from about 69.5 per cent in 2012 to under 67 per cent Saturday. The booth with the highest polling was Nanasukheda in Mangrol — 575 of 591 voted. The lowest turnout was in Varachha’s Phoolpada bboth, where 14 out of 637 voted.