Less than 45 per cent of voters turned up for elections to six municipal corporations

Urban voters in Gujarat gave a lukewarm response to the elections to six municipal corporations in the State, with less than 45 per cent of voters turning up on Sunday.

The turn-out, however, is still likely to be about four per cent higher than a very poor 41 per cent voting recorded in the six civic bodies in 2005.

Barring a few skirmishes — all of minor nature, between the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party workers in Ahmedabad and Vadodara, and between some BJP and Shiv Sena supporters in Ahmedabad — the polling, which was held under strict security cover, remained completely peaceful.

Veteran BJP leader and Lok Sabha member from the State, L.K. Advani, and Chief Minister Narendra Modi, both voters in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, exercised their franchise. Mr. Modi timed voted at 10.10 a.m. to synchronise a “perfect 10” with the date, month and year.

In a brief chat with mediapersons after casting his vote, Mr. Advani expressed concern over the lukewarm response of voters and said he was in favour of compulsory voting, not only in local self-governing bodies but also in the State Assemblies and parliamentary elections.

He was apparently referring to the Compulsory Voting Bill passed by the Assembly for elections to local self-governing bodies in Gujarat, which was rejected by the Governor once and readopted by the Assembly during its brief monsoon session last month.

Modi thanks people

Mr. Modi thanked the people for supporting the State government's “development plank” for the last 15 years or so and expressed confidence that the party would emerge victorious in all the six municipal corporations.

State Congress president Siddhartha Patel, on the other hand, also expressed confidence over his party's victory, claiming that the voting pattern in the six civic bodies favoured the Congress.

Currently, the BJP is in control of the municipal corporations of Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar, while in the seventh, Junagadh, where elections were held last year, the Congress is in power with a slender majority.

The municipal corporation elections — to be followed by polls to 24 of the 26 district panchayats, 208 of the 225 taluka panchayats, and 53 municipalities on October 21 — were considered to be a mid-term assessment of Mr. Modi's government's performance, which will be go to the polls in December 2012.