Ahmedabad: Elections to six municipal corporations in Gujarat concluded amid tight security and adherence to COVID-19 norms. People started queuing up outside polling booths soon after the voting began at 7 am across various wards in the six municipal corporations in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar.
Due to low turnout, political parties pushed hard to increase the turnout in the last 2 hours. In the last hour, Ahmedabad and Bhavnagar recorded the highest turnout. As per Election Commission, the turn out till 6 pm was 41.21%. The biggest corporation, Ahmedabad, witnessed the lowest poll percentage since morning and by the end of the day was 37.81%. Jamnagar witnessed the highest turnout at 49.64%, Rajkot at 45.74%, Bhavnagar at 43.66%, Vadodara at 42.82% and Surat at 42.11%. Voting was also done for bypoll of two wards of Junagadh Corporation which concluded peacefully and registered a turnout of 50.98% and 52.68% respectively.
There was a different voting spirit among the elderly. Despite being between the ages of 70 and 100, they have been casting their votes at the polling booths since early morning. On a normal day, the elders visit the temple early in the morning and then do other work. Looking at today's scenes, it seems that grandparents had given more importance to voting than the temple.
As the voting process started at 7 am in Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Vadodara, Surat, Jamnagar as well as Bhavnagar, the citizens were seen standing in line at the polling booths. In some centres, they supported each other, while in other places, holding the hands of grandchildren, grandparents came to cast their votes. Even at such a young age, others were amazed to see their grandparents exercising their franchise.
A 68-year-old patient from Vadodara has been undergoing treatment for a long time due to ill health. He was brought to the polling station in an ambulance with an oxygen cylinder because he wanted to vote in the election. many Senior citizens came in wheelchairs and clippers at many places. Many were seen going to vote on their wedding day. Brides in Surat, Rajkot and Grooms in Ahmedabad, Vadodara turned to exercise their franchise during and after the rituals.
Complaints of bogus voting in several places with reports of vandalism
In Rajkot and Vadodara, the case against AAP workers was heated, while BJP and Congress workers came face to face near Bhagwati Vidyalaya in Meghaninagar, Ahmedabad. A convoy including Meghaninagar police and ACP rushed to the spot and evacuated the people.
Tension was also seen at Khadiya ward of Ahmedabad after information of some people doing bogus voting went viral. Police immediately rushed to the spot and controlled the situation. There was a scuffle in the booth of Haspura village in Naroda, Ahmedabad. In the booth, a person without an Id card was sitting next to the EVM which created a fuss among the locals. A group of 8 to 10 jumped a wall and entered a polling booth and tried to destroy EVM units due to which polling was stopped at 3 polling booths for some time and resumed after police rushed at the spot and took the situation under control.
Also read: Gujarat poll manifestos and promises
A controversy erupted when Vadodara MP Ranjanben Bhatt reached inside the booth at the polling booth of Ward No. 3 in Nutan Vidyalaya in Sama area. Following this, the workers of Congress protested and caused a great uproar. Following which the MP left. Police were also forced to intervene following the incident.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani cast his vote today evening after he tested negative for coronavirus this afternoon, the CM's office said. Earlier, Rupani, 64, tested positive for the viral infection on February 15, a day after he fainted on a stage during campaigning for civic polls in Vadodara. Since then, he was undergoing treatment at the U N MehtaHeart Hospital in Ahmedabad.
"Due to our collective efforts, we have achieved around 97.5 per cent of COVID-19 recovery rate," he told media. "In a democracy, voting is a pious duty that everybody should follow. Maximum voting will strengthen democracy. Gujarat is a peaceful state, and we have kept its reputation intact (as there has been no untoward incident)," he said. He also wished quick recovery to COVID-19 patients in Gujarat.
"I have faith that all of you will get well soon. The state government has put in place the best system for the treatment of COVID-19, which I have also availed at a government hospital. People need not worry and get treatment at the earliest," he said.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah has cast his vote with his family at the Urban Health Center in Naranpura, Ahmedabad. Shah expressed confidence that the BJP will win the civic polls in Gujarat.
"The BJP has emerged victorious across the country under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I am sure that Gujarat, from where the BJP's victory journey started, will again establish itself as a stronghold of the BJP," he said. Shah said the development journey started by the BJP under Modi's leadership continues across the country, and many states have taken inspiration from it. "I am sure that voters will turn out in large numbers and development will win," he added.
Vajubhai Wala, the Governor of Karnataka and former MLA of Rajkot, cast his vote in the Harihar Hall today in the Rajkot Municipal Corporation elections. "It's a good thing the youth were given tickets," he said after casting his ballot. Saints of the Swaminarayan temple of Maninagar also cast their vote. A voter reached to vote riding a Horse in Vesu area of Surat. Mandhatasinh Jadeja of the Royal family of Rajkot reached to vote in a Vintage car. Yuvraj of Bhavnagar Jayvirrajsinh cast his vote along with his sister Brijrajanandini.
The main contest is between the BJP, which has ruled the six corporations for the last several terms, and the main opposition Congress. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has claimed it would be an effective alternative to the BJP and Congress, while Asaduddin Owaisi's All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is making its debut in the local bodies polls, having fielded 21 candidates in six wards of Ahmedabad.
Around 32,000 policemen were deployed for voting in 575 seats, with each ward having four corporators, officials said. A total of 2,276 candidates are contesting the polls in the six municipal corporations. Besides, nine candidates are also in the fray for by-elections to two seats in the Junagadh Municipal Corporation. Those contesting include 577 from the BJP, 566 from the Congress, 470 from the AAP, 91 from the NCP, 353 from other parties and 228 Independents. The municipal corporation elections are being seen as a test for Rupani as it may set the tone for the state Assembly polls due next year.
As per the State Election Commission, there are a total of 1.14 crore voters, including 60.60 lakh men and 54.06 lakh women. Of the 11,121 polling booths, 2,255 were marked sensitive and 1,188 been designated as very sensitive.
Votes will be counted on February 23.
On February 28, elections to 31 district and 231 taluka panchayats and 81 municipalities will also be held in the state.