The by-election to Unjha Assembly constituency has witnessed close to five per cent dip in voting this year as compared to 2017 Assembly elections for the seat.
It is to be noted that the by-election was necessitated after the resignation of Congress MLA Asha Patel, who then went on to join the BJP. She was fielded by the ruling BJP in the by-election for the same seat amid a lot of discontent among the party cadre.
The Congress has fielded Kanti Patel, popularly known as Kamu Patel, against Asha Patel.
In the 2017 Assembly election, Asha Patel, riding on the Patidar quota agitation wave, had delivered an upset by defeating five-time BJP MLA and former minister Narayan Patel.
Unjha, which falls in the Mehsana district, was the epicentre of Patidar quota movement, and is considered the community’s stronghold.
In that election, Unjha had witnessed close to 72 per cent voting. However, in the by-election, the seat has witnessed close to 67 per cent voting — a drop of five per cent.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Congress candidate Kanti Patel said, “The 2017 Assembly elections were held in winter. Whereas, this year, the elections have been held in peak summer time. So, that would affect the voting. To add to that, a significant number of voters who had voted for Asha Patel in 2017 have remained averse to voting this time due to her change of party loyalty. Our voters have voted, but her supporters have refrained from voting, and the dip in voting percentage is because of that.”
Asha Patel could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.
Jashubhai Patel, BJP’s Mehsana district general secretary, refuted Kanti Patel’s claim. “The reason for less voting has nothing to do with Ashaben joining BJP. The reason for less voting is that the by-election has taken place with the Lok Sabha elections. Local issues are involved in Assembly elections, and people come out in big numbers as compared to Lok Sabha elections. Similarly, there will be more voting in district panchayat elections than in Assembly elections.”
When told about the different voting percentage for Mehsana Lok Sabha seat (65.37 per cent) and Unjha Assembly by-election (67.36 per cent), he said that there was not much of difference.