Dugheri Votes with vengeance

The enthusiasm among the village’s voters had to be seen to be believed yesterday, with more votes polled than even the last panchayat elections, which generally attracts more participation


Brajesh Kumar | December 14, 2012

A sadbhavna manch flag in the village
A sadbhavna manch flag in the village

Explaining Electoral Change in Rural and Urban IndiaThis report is part of a project entitled 'Panchayat and Vidhan Sabha elections 2012-2015' with Dr Mukulika Banerjee of the London School of Economics and Political Science as its Principal Investigator. It is a part of a larger study launched by the European Research Network Programme: "Explaining Electoral Change in Rural and Urban India" and is funded by the Indian-European Research Networking Programme ANR-DFG-ESRC-ICSSR-NOW Joint Funding Scheme, Reference Number: 465-11-031. Governance Now is doing the field research.

When the gate of the primary school in Dugheri village of Bhavnagar district, the designated polling station for the locals in this round of assembly elections, was thrown open at 8 am, the official time to start the polling, it seemed the entire village was keen to get on with the task without delay.
The first hour saw about 170 people voting. By 11am, three hours since the polling started, 598  (about 33 percent) had already exercised their franchise.

At 5 pm, the time the voting came to an end, 1,538 out of 1,840 voters had punched in their choice in the EVM, taking the voting percentage to an unprecedented 83.5 percent. 

In contrast, even the last panchayat elections, which generally attracts more participation, the voting percentage was less, at 73.

“We were voting with a mission,” said Dhanji Bhalia in between phone calls asking for the voting percentage in the neighboring villages. None of the villages has voted with such alacrity, he tells me.

The village has been, because of being at the fore-front of the protest movement against setting up of a cement factory in the area, at the receiving end of the state's vengeance. It’s residents were lathi-charged when they participating in a ‘pad-yatra’ last year and their sarpanch, Bharat Shiyal, survived a fatal attack.

“The mission Bhalia spoke about is to send a message to the political class that one day in five years, the aam admi gets a chance to speak his mind and when that chance comes we do it with a vengeance,” said Poona Bhalia, another resident of the village.
While no one reveals who he/she has voted for, the general mood in the village is against the ruling BJP. And the flags of the Sadbhavna Manch, the party floated by Dr Kanubhai Kalsaria, who left BJP (he won the Mahuva seat three times on BJP ticket) in protest against the proposed cement factory and led the protest movement, stuck in majority of the houses, leave nothing to imagination.

Those who are living in far off places like Junagadh and Surat have come back to vote. “I had to come back to vote. Looking at the situation in the village and the stakes involved I had to come back,” says Chagan Makwana, a 24 year resident who works in a diamond factory in Junagadh. Out of 200 villagers working in Junagadh, 80 have returned for the purpose.
If I don’t exercise my right, I won’t be contributing to the election of a leader who thinks good of the village and its people”, says Bharat Bambhania, a 27-year-old resident. Bambhania works in Surat.

Not just men, women too enthusiastically participated.

Of the 1538 votes cast, the women accounted for 715, almost 50 percent. "Voting is a kind of ‘daan’ and one of the most important ‘daan’, so it cannot be squandered,” said Rekha Bhalia, a 27-year-old woman.

While the fate of the candidates are sealed in the EVMs, the villagers are happy that they have performed their duty.



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