Polling to elect members and sarpanchs in 8,954 gram panchayats across Gujarat was held peacefully on Tuesday with authorities predicting a higher voter turnout as against that in the last elections. State Election Commissioner (SEC) Varesh Sinha said exact polling percentage will emerge later as it will take time to compile data of all 8,954 villages. In previous village panchayat polls, the turnout stood at 77 per cent.
A large number of villagers queued up at polling booths during 8 am to 5 pm to exercise their franchise. Total number of registered voters for the polls stood at over 1.65 crore, including 79.6 lakh women. Sinha said 36.36 per cent turnout was registered till 2 pm. “Looking at the overwhelming response from rural voters, I can say that voter turnout would remain either at par or may go beyond previous election mark of 77 per per cent,” he told reporters at Gandhinagar after voting closed.
The SEC said re-election will be held on Wednesday on all seats in one ward and for a seat of Sarpanch in Kadana taluka in Mahisagar district. “Due to some technical problem during polling, we have to conduct re-polling for the election of members of one ward and one sarpanch in Kadana taluka. The re-polling will be held tomorrow,” Sinha said.
Counting of votes will be held on December 29 and the results will be declared the same day. Sinha further said the polls on 12 seats have been postponed due to the death of candidates in the fray. “Among these 12 candidates, 8 were contesting as panchayat members while four were in fray for the post of sarpanch. We have postponed polls on these seats,” he said. Out of total 10,279 village panchayats whose five-year tenure ended this month and were supposed to go for polls, 1,325 panchayats have been declared ‘Samras’ (representative elected unopposed), necessitating polls only for 8,954 gram panchayats, according to a release by SEC.
Around 1.20 lakh candidates were in the fray for 53,116 wards across the state, whereas 26,800 candidates contested on 8,527 seats of Sarpanch. Over 44,000 ballot boxes were used across more than 22,000 polling booths in state. Though EVMs were not used, voters were given the NOTA (None Of The Above) option in the ballot. The state administration deployed more than 50,000 police personnel and over 1.35 lakh polling staff.
Gram Panchayat polls are not fought on party symbols and candidates need to fight in their personal capacity, wherein each voter is required to cast two votes, one to elect sarpanch and another for a panchayat member in his ward. Ruling BJP had last month swept local bodies elections in state by capturing 107 seats out of total 123 seats.