Star campaigner and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s exit from Gujarat told on the voter turnout in the bypolls on Saturday, with both his constituencies of Vadodara and Maninagar registering comparatively low turnouts.
By the end of polling, Maninagar Assembly seat represented by Modi as MLA last, recorded the lowest polling at around 33.5 per cent and Vadodara Lok Sabha seat vacated by him in favour of Varanasi, saw about 43.5 per cent turn out to vote, compared to the 70 per cent in the last LS polls in April.
In the Vadodara Lok Sabha and nine Assembly seats that went to bypolls, the average voter turnout was 50 per cent.
The tribal Limkheda seat saw the highest voting at 64 per cent while Maninagar, represented by Modi since 2002, saw the lowest turnout.
Kamlesh Patel, former local MLA from Maninagar, who vacated the seat for Narendra Modi in 2002, said that given all efforts, the turnout was not going to cross 40 per cent. “It is a working day with most of voters being away on duty, this was expected,” he said.
However, the Congress viewed this as a “favourable situation”. Naresh Raval, a former Congress minister, said, “A general undercurrent of unrest among party workers against the BJP candidate is palpable,” he said giving reason for abysmally low turnout since morning.
Amidst “false” complaint of bogus voting and large-scale boycott by voters, the Vadodara LS bypoll went largely smooth, but far lower than the record shattering 70 per cent on April 30.
Congress candidate Narendra Ravat alleged that some people were brought to a polling station in Sama locality from Bharuch and Ankleshwar to cast “bogus vote”, though no complaint was filed by the presiding officer of the booth in this regard. Police detained seven persons for questioning and released them for want of any complaint.
More than 10,000 people residing in different flood-affected localities in Vadodara decided to boycott the election as a way to protest against the apathy of the administration and the ruling BJP government during the recent flooding.
An entire village, Darjipura, decided to boycott bypolls after their petitions to the VMC and collectorate to provide basic amenities in the area went unheard.
Gaggabhai Bharwad, a resident of the area, said, “In 2002, Darjipura was under the Harni Panchayat and the VMC later included some part of the area into the city, but Darjipura was left undeveloped. We have no basic amenities, right from registration of birth or death, sanitation, water connections or hygiene. We have been petitioning the VMC and district collectorate for several years but no one has come to meet us, so we conveyed that we will not cast votes.”
Bharwad said that the village, with a population of 2,000, had voted for the Lok Sabha polls in April because “everyone had high hopes from Modi”. He said, “Modi did not even come back to see Vadodara so there is no point in voting for anyone as everyone is alike. What is the point of having the right to vote when it cannot get us basic amenities as citizens?”
Similarly, residents of various societies in Kalali, Subhanpura, Koteshwar, Manjalpur, Warasia, Wadi, Tarsali, Akota, and Karelibaug also decided to boycott the bypolls.
Vadodara DEO Avantika Singh said that six cases of EVM malfunction were reported and the machines had to be replaced. “Voting went largely undisturbed and we received some complaints from Congress candidate regarding bogus voting and learnt about voting boycott from several areas,” she said, adding, “We will be able to receive exact voting figure only by Sunday morning.”
Congress and BJP workers had argument with security forces at some polling booths in Maliya-Hatina in Junagadh. “They were complaining that bogus voting was going on. However, officer rushed to the booths and sorted out the issue. They convinced the workers that everything was normal and after that polling went on smoothly,” Junagadh District Collector Alok Kumar Pandey said.
In Talaja, Hasmukh Jani, a teacher who was appointed booth-level-officer in Hamirpara village, was suspended from service after he allegedly did not report for duty. “He has been suspended with immediate effect and his department would take decision on his reinstatement,” said Bhavnagar Collector Pravin Solanki.
In Tankara seat, two villages boycotted polls to protest what they called lack of basic infrastructure in their villages. “Residents of Khakhra-Bela village in Padadhari taluka and Nana Rampara in Tanakra taluka boycotted polling over reported lack of facility of drinking water among others. After some convincing, residents of Khakhra-Bela cast their votes but Ramapara residents did not exercise their franchise,” returning officer of Tankara Assembly seat, Iqbal Desai, said.
All the four Assembly seats of Saurashtra which witnessed bypolls on Saturday had fallen vacant after BJP MLAs representing them were elected MPs during the Lok Sabha elections early this year. All of these seats have direct contest between BJP and Congress.
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