Gujarat local body elections: 1.14 crore voters to cast vote in six major cities today

The elections to the civic corporations were due in December last year, but were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Voting in the six municipal corporations — Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Surat, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar — of the state will be held Sunday, the results for which will be declared Tuesday. The elections to the civic corporations were due in December last year, but were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Around 1.14 crore voters are expected to cast their votes at 144 wards with a total 575 seats across the six cities. This time, the cities are going to polls after having expanded their geographical limits and thus with an increased voter base. The BJP was in power in all these municipal corporations.

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 on Monday and has been undergoing treatment at UN Mehta Hospital in Ahmedabad, will cast his vote in Rajkot, while BJP’s state president C R Paatil, who is an MP from Navsari seat, will be voting in Surat.

For the first time the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), founded by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and Asaduddin Owaisi-led All Indian Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) are contesting in the local body elections in the state.

Gujarat polls

This year, the BJP’s campaign had largely focussed on the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the abrogation of Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu & Kashmir, and the Statue of Unity. The Congress, on the other hand, has promised a ‘GujRight’ card in its manifesto that would give access to citizens to all public amenities. In Vadodara, the party had kicked up a storm when it announced ‘date destinations’ and coffee shops for youth, women, and students to meet up, with the BJP calling it an “Italian mindset”, in a veiled dig at the party’s president.

Last year, as the state was ‘unlocking’ during the pandemic, the Congress had appointed the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) founder Hardik Patel as its working president. The BJP, meanwhile, appointed Paatil, who has roots in Maharashtra, as its state chief.

In 2015, the elections to not only the municipal corporations but also the municipalities and the panchayats were influenced by the quota agitation led by Hardik that saw a major swing in the votes towards the Congress — the impact of which was most felt in the Surat Municipal Corporation, where the Congress’s seat share went up to 36 from the 14 it had won in 2010. Twenty-six of these 36 seats were in the Patidar-dominated areas.

The AAP, which appointed former PAAS member Gopal Italia as its state president, has 469 candidates in the fray from 144 wards in six cities and one from Junagadh seat. The AIMIM has 21 candidates, of whom four are former corporators and two are non-Muslims.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which is an ally of the Congress in Maharashtra, has fielded 28 candidates in Rajkot, and 10 in Jamnagar. NCP has also fielded two on the as many seats going to bypolls in Junagadh.

This year, the BJP has won uncontested on one seat in Naranpura ward of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation after the lone opponent, the Congress, withdrew its candidate.

Till 2010, each ward had three seats, with one reserved for a woman corporator as per the 33 per cent quota, which was raised to 50 per cent in 2015 and the number of seats per ward were raised to four.

With the elections being held in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, the State Election Commission (SEC) has introduced some special arrangements. The timing of voting has been scheduled between 7 am and 6 pm, while a special standard operating procedure (SOP) has also been announced for Covid-19 positive patients to cast their votes. Such patients, who are willing to cast their votes, can do so only between 5 pm and 6 pm while adhering to the SOP which include intimating the nodal officer and returning officer concerned of their Covid-19 positive status 24 hours in advance and obtaining a fitness certificate from an MBBS or above doctor. A Covid-19 patient also has to wear a PPE kit at his/her own cost while going to vote.

The rules of the SEC for voting also include thermal screenings of every voter at each booth. Wearing of mask is also compulsory, but the staff on election duty can ask a person to remove the same to ascertain true identity before voting.

(With inputs from ENS Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot)

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