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Ahead of poll year, over 8,600 gram panchayats in Gujarat to go to polls today

🔴 As many as 27200 candidates are in the fray for the posts of sarpanch and around 1.20 lakh candidates for the wards.

By: Express News Service | Gandhinagar |
December 19, 2021 12:39:01 am
Gujarat gram panchayats, gram panchayats polls, Gujarat gram panchayats sarpanch, Gujarat news, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsPreparations at a polling centre in Vadodara. Express Photo

Around 8,690 gram panchayats in the state will go to polls to elect their Sarpanch and over 48500 ward members on Sunday as campaigning ended Friday. Around 1.82 crore voters are expected to cast their votes through ballot papers across around 23,100 polling booths, and the results will be announced on December 21. The elections include general elections, mid-term elections, and by-elections.

Although, gram panchayat elections are not fought on party symbols, it is considered significant ahead of the next year’s Assembly elections.

As many as 27200 candidates are in the fray for the posts of sarpanch and around 1.20 lakh candidates for the wards. Of the 23,112 polling stations, 6,689 centres have been declared as “sensitive”, while an additional 3,040 “extremely sensitive”. Extra security force including State Reserve Police (SRP) has been deployed in all such centres. Over 1.37 lakh polling staff and over 51000 police staff will be deployed for conducting the election process and for maintenance of law and order.

An election observer from a political party said that although the local caste equation plays a major role in gram panchayat elections, a party whose local leader manages to win majority seats in the gram panchayats – specially the post of Sarpanch – can have an edge in the assembly elections.

The elections of around 10800 gram panchayats – 10221 sarpanch and 89049 wards – were announced by Gujarat State Election Commission in November.

Of these nearly 1165 gram panchayats – with equal number of sarpanches and 9613 wards – have been declared Samras Gram Panchayats, where the village chief and entire body is co-opted, exempting the village from the Sunday election.

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 like 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 7) depending on its population and the number of times it has become Samras. The monetary grant for developmental works starts with minimum Rs 3 lakh for the first time Samras village (with population upto 5,000) and goes maximum up to Rs 11 lakh for the fifth time Samras village having population between 5001 and 25000.

A first time Mahila Samras village (population upto 5,000) gets Rs 4.50 lakhs and priority for the village to get a Standard VIII and onwards classes (if the village has school upto Std VII). The maximum incentive for a Mahila Samras village (fifth time Mahila Samras having population between 5001 and 25000) include a one time Rs 16 lakh monetary grant.

Dahod district, which has seen at least 24 of the 354 gram panchayats go the Samras way, has seen a woman Sarpanch in one of the Samras gram panchayats for over 20 years. The Sagdapada village panchayat of Fatepura taluka of the district has opted for a Samras way for the fifth consecutive term and also elected a woman Sarpanch for the same tenure.

This year, the village has chosen women candidates from all 12 wards of the panchayat as well as a woman Sarpanch.

In Rajkot, of the 541 due for polls in this round 134 panchayats have been declared samras, which is double than last time when 65 villages had chosen their chief and members by consensus.

“The development commissioner of the state will allot grant worth Rs 25000 to each polling booth where polling will not required due to candidates getting elected unopposed,” Atul Mehta, the deputy mamlatdar who is in-charge of village panchayat elections in Rajkot said.

Mehta said that some wards are likely to remain vacant as seats are reserved for scheduled tribes or scheduled castes but no eligible candidate came forward to file his or her nomination papers.

Bhupat Bodar, president of Rajkot district panchayat said in a release, “With an aim to save time and funds which are otherwise spent on conducting village panchayat elections, and to give an impetus to development of villages and make available facilities to those living in villages, the BJP government in the state has announced to increase the grant given to samras village panchayats… The special grants will give an impetus to development projects in these villages”.

in Surat out of 407 panchayats 16 were Samras while in Bharuch district out of 483 gram panchayats 63 seats were declared samras. In panchayats where only Sarpanch or one or more (but not all) wards are chosen with consensus are considered as partial uncontested panchayats.

As per the State Election Commission, apart from 1165 Samras gram panchayats, there are around 6476 gram panchayats where either the Sarpanch or any of the wards have been declared elected uncontested. In such 6476 gram panchayats, candidates on 473 posts of Sarpanch and around 27400 ward members have been declared elected uncontested.

Notably, in around 2650 gram panchayats, the seats of around 65 Sarpanch and around 3300 wards have remained vacant without any nomination. Such seats remain vacant for various possible reasons like the villagers declaring boycott of the election due to some issue, unavailability of a reserved community candidate for a seat declared reserved for the particular community, death of candidate(s) and cancellation of nomination form of candidate(s).

In Panchmahal, one panchayat of Chhogala village in Sehra taluka has not seen a single candidature for members of the panchayat or even the Sarpanch.

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