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Thursday, March 04, 2021

Gujarat local body polls: Party loyalists to first-time voters queue up

A High Court advocate from Juhapura area, Sufi Anwar Hussain (45) says lawyers are still distressed due to the pandemic.

Written by Vaibhav Jha , Ritu Sharma , Gopal Kateshiya, Aditi Raja | Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Vadodara |
February 22, 2021 2:18:50 am
Vadodara Municipal Corporation, Gujarat Assembly Speaker, Rajendra Trivedi, Vadodara elections, Vadodara voter's turnout, Vadodara news, gujarat latest news, indian expressPolling for the remaining nine seats of Thangadh taluka panchayat is to be conducted on February 28. (Representational)

On the morning of the civic body polls, 32-year-old Naresh Padmaji, a differently-abled man, picked up his crutches and walked a kilometre towards the polling booth at a primary school in ward six of Nava Vadaj area in Ahmedabad to cast his vote. Padmaji runs a small paan shop in his locality.

“There has been a problem of clean and regular water supply in my locality. As the summer season is approaching, there are also fears of interrupted electricity supply. I hope the candidate I voted for wins and that our issues are addressed,” said Padmaji.

A High Court advocate from Juhapura area, Sufi Anwar Hussain (45) says lawyers are still distressed due to the pandemic. He is a resident of Sonal Highway area under Maktampura ward that was carved out of Sarkhej ward in 2015.’

“The entire country has reopened but not the High Court. It is a major economic loss for professionals like me; we are surviving on our savings. Even the maintenance costs of our offices are unbearable and many of us have rented out these properties,” he said after casting his vote at a government school in Maktampura.

Hussain said that if it were up to him, he would not have lived in Juhapura. “It is not a choice, but a compulsion for us to live in Muslim areas… We cannot buy properties in other areas. Issues like waterlogging and drinking water have plagued the area since ages… I had to sell my car worth Rs 90 lakh that had gotten damaged due to waterlogging in the monsoon season. These are the issues that should be resolved.”

29-year-old Vijay Dabhi, a resident of Dariapur in old city Ahmedabad, is a gym instructor with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) on a third party basis. He claimed that since the inception of pandemic, he has donned many hats for the civic body — serving food to the needy, supplying ration to patients in Covid hotspots and feeding stray animals during the lockdown.

“I have been working for the AMC from 7 am to 4 pm everyday, feeding stray animals, helping with food distribution and providing ration to quarantined patients. I am a sportsperson and I cast my vote with the aspiration that the upcoming councilor in Dariapur develops sports infrastructure, so that the youth may be motivated towards pursuing sports activities. I want a sports complex in each lane of my ward,” said Dabhi.

Samir Shaikh, 20, a resident of Jamalpur, is a first-time voter. For four months, his locality was termed as a Covid hotspot due to a huge surge in cases. A BCom graduate, Shaikh recently started working at a private company in the old city. “There are many issues in my locality which include sewage problems, electricity supply and potholes on roads… If we have a pandemic again, our councillor must provide a sufficient number of ambulances and bed facilities,” said Shaikh.

Aslam Ajmerwala, 57, a resident of Jamalpur, reveals that he is a party loyalist without naming the candidate or their political party. “Although not much work has been undertaken in my area, I have voted for the same party that I have been voting for the past several years,” said Ajmerwala.

Firoz Kudawala, 70, a resident of Khadia, arrived at Navjeevan Primary school in Khadia on Sunday to cast his vote. “I don’t remember since how long I have been voting. Today, I brought my son, too. Roads are a problem in my locality…” he said.

Sajid Ansari (40) cast his vote at Shams School near Ajit Mill Crossroad in Rakhial on Sunday afternoon. A resident of Narottam Maharaj Ni Chali under Gomtipur ward, he runs a shop of mobile phone accessories. “Business has still not picked up after Covid… although we are all hopeful things that would get better,” he said. Gomtipur was one of the first wards in Ahmedabad to be micro-contained in May at the peak of the Covid outbreak in the city.

Nadeem Kamar, 40, who voted at Bapunagar’s Nutan Bharti school, wants at least one major bank to open its branch in the predominantly Muslim neighbourhood. Happy with the “fast-paced development of Ahmedabad,” Kamar said, “The sewage and stormwater drainage system need to improve. I complain on the corporation app every time there is a leakage or blockage, but the corporation has to find a permanent solution.” He said the need of the hour is an “educated candidate who should work for education and sanitation” in his ward.

In Rajkot, stockbroker Hitesh Chandarana said that he votes for political parties and not candidates. “I have faith that my vote counts and that it can boost development of the city. Therefore, I come out and exercise my franchise every election,” he said after casting his vote at a polling booth inside P & TV Sheth High School.

Tara Thadeshwar (73), a resident of Poojara plot, said, “For decades, I have been voting for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he is the real mover and shaker. While I have been voting for his party, roads in our neighbourhood are in very poor shape. I hope they will do something about it.”

Her daughter-in-law Krishna Thadeshwar (47) said that she, too, is a Modi supporter. “Only after Modi became the prime minister did we start getting to know what is happening across the world… This was not the case when Congress was ruling the country. I vote for his party as it has ensured a lot of development in the city,” said Krishna.

At the polling stations in Nagarwada of Vadodara, that serve the neighbourhoods of Ran-avas, Navidharti, Mali Mohalla, Nagarchi Mohalla and Saiyyad-pura, the response is tepid. One Aslam Mohammad (19) says, “At the end of the day, local civic issues remain unaddressed. The lanes are narrow, the drains are as old and there is no sign of improvement … This is the first time that I will exercise my franchise.”

At a polling station in Navapura area of Ward 13, which serves a Patel-dominated neighbourhood, Kalpana Patel (49) says, “If we have to complain, we have to vote. But we do not keep high hopes… At a local level, it is the leaders who are accessible who matter. So, our vote is for the most active leader from our ward. We are aware of those who ensure that the lethargic ward office of the VMC does the work…”

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