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Dull turnout in Gujarat local bodies polls

By Ians English

Ahmedabad, Nov 22: Amid complaints of deletion of names in voters' lists, a meager 15 percent polling was reported till Sunday afternoon in local body elections being held to six city municipal corporations in Gujarat, election officials said

Voting for the first of the two-phased local bodies polls began on a dull note at 8 a.m. at around 13,000 polling stations in the state, secured by police and central reserve police personnel.


At 1.30 p.m. it was continuing at a snail's pace, the officials said.

With no enthusiasm shown by the voters for the polling process, political parties across the spectrum expressed concern over the low turnout and hoped that the pace would pick up later by the time voting concludes at 5 p.m.

The State Election Commission received an average of two to three major complaints from the six cities about absence of and deletion of voters' names from electoral lists.

The number of missing voters ranged anywhere from 500 to a staggering 2,000 at a number of wards.

Ruling BJP patriarch L.K. Advani cast his vote at a polling station in Ahmedabad city's Khanpur area around 9 a.m. followed in quick succession by Chief Minister Anandiben Patel in newly-developed Shilaj area of the city and later national BJP president Amit Shah, among other prominent names.

Patel exuded confidence about a BJP victory, and Advani supported her contention.

Asked if the Narendra Modi's performance as the country's prime minister could have an impact on the local body polls as was alleged after the results of the recently-concluded Bihar state assembly elections, Advani said: "It is too much to expect from a new government in a short duration, particularly when its direction is correct."

Advani predicted a good result for the BJP in Gujarat.

While no incidents of poll-related violence were reported from anywhere, the ballotting, however, was suspended for nearly 20 minutes at a polling station in Vadodara after technical glitches in an electronic voting machine.

A middle-aged man fainted ahead of polling at a polling centre in Ahmedabad.

Over 95 lakh people are eligible to exercise their franchise in the first phase of polling. For the first time, as many as 50 percent of the total 572 seats in the 143 municipal wards are reserved for women candidates.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) controls six of the eight municipal corporations -- in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Surat, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar -- while terms of Gandhinagar and Junagath bodies are yet to conclude.


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