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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Gram panchayat elections: 9k villages in Gujarat elect bodies led by sarpanches

Close to 9,000 villages elected bodies led by sarpanches that included a chairperson of an Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), siblings or spouses of outgoing sarpanches, and others, with some ending up in a tie.

By: Express News Service | Gandhinagar, Rajkot, Surat, Vadodara |
Updated: December 22, 2021 3:19:54 am
Jayesh Boghra, who was elected chairman of Rajkot Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) early this month, was elected sarpanch of Ramnagar village in Rajkot district. (Express photo)

Celebrations broke out in villages after results of gram panchayats elections were announ-ced on Tuesday, voting for which was held on December 19. Close to 9,000 villages elected bodies led by sarpanches that included a chairperson of an Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), siblings or spouses of outgoing sarpanches, and others, with some ending up in a tie.

Even as the counting of votes was on at 344 locations across the state under police bandobast, following Covid protocols, and the panchayat elections are not fought on party symbols, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed that more than 70 per cent panchayats were won by candidates supported by it.

Till 9 pm on Tuesday, election results of 6,923 out of the 8,686 gram panchayats that went to polls were declared.

Three weeks after he was elected chairman of Rajkot APMC, Jayesh Boghra was elected sarpanch of his native village Ramnagar in Rajkot district on Tuesday, succeeding wife Payal as the elected head of the village.

Mumbai model Aeshra Patel who contested the sarpanch elections from her native village of Kavitha in Sankheda taluka of Chhota Udepur district lost to sitting deputy sarpanch Jyoti Solanki. While Solanki got 539 votes, Aeshra polled 440.

Vadodara and Navsari districts had three cases of tied results. In Bakrol village of Waghodia taluka, Kanu Nayka and Shailesh Nayka bagged 401 votes each. The returning officer decided the winner through draw of lot where Nayka emerged the lucky one. In the Pathri village of Navsari district, Sumitra Halapati and Nitisha Halapati got 32 votes each and the former emerged winner after draw of lots. In Vansi village of Jalalpore taluka in the same district, Bharat Patel and Bharti Patel got 176 votes each where Bharat was declared winner after draw of lots. Elections were conducted in 269 villages for sarpanch and village panchayat members in Navsari district.

Hanumanpura village in Waghodia taluka of Vadodara district elected a woman sarpanch, Niyati Patel, who is a chemical engineer by profession and a first-time contestant. Following her win, Patel said, “People have entrusted me with the task of working for the village, I will not give them a chance to complain.”

In Talsat village of Vadodara taluka, five-term sarpanch Sukhdev Thakor faced defeat as co-contestant Navneet Thakor won the polls by a sizeable margin.

Padra taluka’s Medhad village witnessed a close finish between two contestants for the post of sarpanch, with Sandeep Patel winning by a margin of five votes. The slim margin led other contestants to demand a recounting, which was granted. However, even in the recounting, Sandeep Patel won by five votes and the result was declared as final.

Bharuch and Narmada districts witnessed distress scenes. Ashmitaben Vasava, the wife of Vasudev Vasava, collapsed at the counting centre on hearing her husband who contested for sarpanch seat from Chitrada gram panchayat in Narmada district lost by 10 votes. She was rushed to hospital where her condition was reported stable, said election officials.

In Jarsad village of Jhagadia taluka in Bharuch district, Rajesh Vasava passed out after he lost the elections and was taken to a hospital. At a counting centre in Jhagadia village of the same taluka, a snake charmer had to be called in as a snake entered the counting centre. After snake charmer Sunil Sharma took the reptile away, counting resumed.

In Kheda district, sarpanches of two villages in Mehmdavad taluka were elected through picking lots after a tie. In Aamsaran village, Amrat Chauhan was declared winner, while in Jamaipura village, Savita Solanki was declared winner.

In Meetha na Muvada village of Galteshwar taluka of Kheda, Sonal Rathod won the sarpanch post by one vote while in Jalannagar of Thasra taluka.

In Sheri village of Mahuda taluka, Daksha Chauhan was declared sarpanch by a margin of two votes. In Silodna village of Nadiad taluka, Kanu Chauhan became sarpanch by six votes and Jayanti Rathod of Vasai village in Matar taluka won by a slim margin of seven votes.

In ward no. 5 of Valsad district, candidate Santosh Halpati got one vote with him claiming that no one from his 12-member family supported him.

Of the 10,800 gram panchayats that went to polls this time, nearly 1,165 co-opted bodies were declared Samras gram panchayats with an equal number of sarpanches and 9,613 wards choosing to elect their bodies. The elections held on Sunday recor-ded 78.3 per cent turnout, against the 80 per cent turnout in 2016.

Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) spokesperson Manish Doshi told The Indian Express that “most of the villages had begun leaning toward the Congress because of the finance commissions centralising power of spending on villages at the state and central government levels and the local bodies not having much say”. He claimed that his party was strong in the villages of north Gujarat and Saurashtra.

Convener of Gujarat BJP’s media cell, Yagnesh Dave, claimed that more than 70 per cent panchayats were won by candidates supported by the party. “Out of the 6,000-odd gram panchayats (results of which have been declared), more than 70% are those supported by the BJP. We will come out with an exact number after the complete results are out and we verify the (BJP) membership of the winners,” Dave said.

In 2016, the BJP had claimed nearly 80 per cent of the village panchayats were BJP leaning and the party had felicitated some 8,000 sarpanches in Gandhinagar soon after.

Additional Chief Secretary, panchayats, rural housing and rural development, Vipul Mittra, said that as per the guidelines of the 15th Finance Commission, 60 per cent of the grants given to villages were “tied grants that would have to be spent on water supply projects”. Also the payments to all contractors doing works in the villages, went digital.

“Earlier sarpanches would issue cheques. Now the system has become faceless and the cheque book has been taken away,” Mittra said. Besides the government has started geo-tagging of works like road projects to avoid duplication, says Mittra.

Panchayats where the post of sarpanch and all the wards are chosen with consensus of villagers are considered ‘Samras Gam’ under a scheme of the Gujarat government where such villages get incentives such as a one-time monetary grant and priority for the village to set up classrooms of Class 8 and above (if the village has school up to Class 12) depending on its population and the number of times it has become Samras. This year, ahead of the gram panchayat elections, the state government had raised benefits for Samras gram panchayats.

In 2016, of the total 10,279 gram panchayats that were to go to polls, 1,325 were declared Samras Gram pranchayats.

As per the State Election Commission, apart from 1,165 Samras gram panchayats, there are around 6,476 gram panchayats where either the sarpanch or any of the wards have been declared elected uncontested. In such 6,476 gram panchayats, candidates on 473 posts of sarpanch and around 27,400 ward members have been declared elected uncontested.

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