Voting for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections closed in Gujarat with about 62.36 per cent voting on April 23.
The highest turnout of voters was recorded in Valsad in South Gujarat with 74.09 per cent while the lowest voter turnout was recorded in Amreli of Saurashtra region with 55.73 per cent where Paresh Dhanani, the leader of Opposition is contesting.
Gandhinagar constituency—from where BJP president Amit Shah is contesting—recorded a 64.87 per cent voter turnout, almost one per cent more than in 2014, when BJP veteran leader LK Advani had won with a margin of 4.82 lakhs.
However, tribals in Narmada and Dang districts boycotted polls as a mark of protest. Noticeably, most of the villages in Narmada district—around 314 tribal gram panchayats around Rajpipla and Kevadiya talukas—that boycotted polls were affected due to the project of the ‘Statue of Unity’ (of Sardar Patel). In the districts of Dang and Tapi (especially in Songadh), the tribals refused to vote while demanding basic amenities like traversable roads and proper schools and also as a mark of protest against the Bharatmala project and the Par-Tapi-Narmada link project. Narmada Dang Tapi
Also read: Awaiting ‘Development’, Tribals Of South Gujarat Mull Boycotting Polls
Noticeably, the Bharatmala project is a Union government-funded road and highways project that will connect 550 district headquarters (from current 300) to minimum 4 lane–highway by raising the number of corridors to 50 from the current 6, connect 24 logistics parks, 66 inter-corridors in a total of about 8,000 kilomtres and 116 feeder routes in about 7,500 kilometres.
The Par-Tapi-Narmada link project that envisages transfer of surplus water of rivers in Maharashtra and South Gujarat to feed the command area of the Miyagam branch of Narmada canal. It will save water in Narmada dam, which will be taken to Saurashtra and Kutch.
However, a socio-economic survey of the National Water Development Agency conducted by the Water and Power Consultancy Services India (a Government of India undertaking), Gandhinagar had stated that the creation of the reservoirs would affect 61 villages, mostly located in tribal areas of Dang and Valsad districts.
“The Sardar Patel Statue of Unity project may cost BJP a seat in Gujarat. Tribals who were affected by the project and other group gram panchayats who are demanding that the each village in the tribal areas of Rajpipla and Kevadiya should be a separate gram panchayat and be allotted separate budget for developmental work, have boycotted the polls,” Praful Vasava, tribal activist who has led the protests around tribal areas of Kevadaiya, Naramada in the past told Newsclick.
Also read: The Tall Price That Gujarat's Tribals Are Paying for the 'Tallest' Statue
“The whole day the villagers of 314 Gram Panchayats sat in front of the Collector’s office in Rajpipla as a mark of protest and did not vote,” added Vasava.
“Tribals of Songadh, Dang and Valsad have been protesting the two projects — Par-Tapi-Narmada link and Bharatmala projects for over months now. The Gujarat government have been deaf towards the protests by tribals of these areas. However, when a Adivasi Yuva Sangathan, a tribal rights organization working in these areas, decided to mobilise people for boycotting polls, a local BJP leader submitted a memorandum to the Collector stating that the organization is provoking the tribals for no reason as no such project exists or is being planned,” stated Romel Sutariya, a Gujarat-based tribal rights activist.
“About 45 villages will be affected by the two projects in Songadh, however, only 3 villages boycotted the polls,” he added.
Noticeably, there have also been incidents of people receiving threats in some areas of the state on the day of the polls.
“We have received 43 complaints overall, of which one is about EVM. Incidents of miscreants threatening people in Junagadh and Jhalod in Dahod districts were reported. Two complaints were from Olpad and Mota Varacha in Surat, where Congress had complained of someone displaying banners. Two complaints were received from Ahmedabad’s Bodakdev region where banners were displayed on some roadside buildings and were later removed the by the EC. Similar complaints were also recived form Bhavnagar, Patan and Rajkot constituencies. This apart, the Congress candidate complained about bogus polling agents in Porbandar,” S Murli Krishna, Gujarat’s Chief Electoral Officer, told the media.
“Out of 51,851 poll booths, 4,800 were marked sensitive and 96 per cent booths were facilitated with webcasting,” added Murli Krishna.
“In Ambednagar area of Junagadh constituency, three people were arrested after complaints of thrashing with a wooden staff with the motive of preventing from voting,” stated Narsimha Kumar, Inspector General of Police, Gujarat.
Noticeably, a video of the incident had gone viral during the day of the polls after which district police filed an FIR and took action.
Reportedly, for polling booth number 345 in Mota Varacha of Surat, only 718 names out of the total 1,487 featured in the list. In Dahod a mob of around 20 people, reportedly, had barged into a polling booth in Jhalod and allegedly thrashed two people who were there on election duty. However, no arrests have been made so far. In Manavdar constituency of Porbandar, reportedly, a bogus polling agent was removed from the booth by EC officials.