National

Rural voters turn out in strong numbers

Indomitable: Namdeo Pawar (76) and Muktabai Pawar (70), a couple from Chhikali village in Karvir constituency, flash their inked fingers after casting their vote on Monday.

Indomitable: Namdeo Pawar (76) and Muktabai Pawar (70), a couple from Chhikali village in Karvir constituency, flash their inked fingers after casting their vote on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Abhijeet Gurjar

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Though unaffected by rain, polling in western Maharashtra marred by incidents of violence and reports of bogus voting

Barring showers over some parts of western Maharashtra, the rain stayed away, giving voters a respite for the better part of Monday. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) had forecast that intermittent rain could play spoilsport on polling day.

Though unaffected by rain, polling in the region was marred by a few incidents of violence and reports of bogus voting in some segments. A scuffle broke out between workers of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at Jamkhed in Ahmednagar district.

Going on a rampage

According to the police, the altercation turned into a physical fight with the NCP workers allegedly drawing knives and injuring two BJP workers. The other BJP workers went on a rampage, destroying an SUV belonging to the NCP workers. The Jamkhed police have taken five people into custody.

In another incident in Solapur district, Atul Khupse, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi’s (VBA) candidate from Karmala, alleged that he was assaulted by NCP workers and supporters of Sanjay Shinde, the NCP-backed Independent candidate contesting the same seat. The VBA claimed that the NCP was incensed by Mr. Khupse allegations that the party was using bogus voters to win the polls.

Mr. Shinde’s supporters allegedly attacked Mr. Khupse, his wife and supporters with stones, injuring them and a polling agent. The clash took place at a polling booth in Dahiwali village in Madha tehsil. Mr. Khupse, his wife and the other injured were rushed to a nearby hospital. A VBA spokesman said the party has filed a complaint against Mr. Shinde and his supporters at Karmala police station.

Meanwhile, in Pune, a temporary power failure at a polling booth in Shivajinagar saw voting take place by candlelight for some time. In another incident in Pimpri Assembly segment, five people were taken into custody by the Pimpri police when they tried to cast their votes with alleged bogus identification papers.

Lacklustre showing

While voters turned out in large numbers in rural areas of the six districts that comprise the ‘sugar heartland’ of western Maharashtra, urban pockets witnessed a lacklustre turnout.

As per figures till 5 p.m., Pune district recorded 52.80% polling, Satara 60.28%, Kolhapur 67.62%, Ahmednagar 62.36%, Sangli 61.25% and Solapur, which was hit by showers in the earlier part of the day, recorded 58.11%. In Pune district, the urban segments of Kasba Peth, Shivajinagar and Pune Cantonment witnessed disappointing turnouts, recording poll figures of a little over 38%, 37% and 36% respectively. In stark contrast, the rural areas of Maval, Baramati and Indapur recorded 63%, 62% and 65% turnout respectively.

An example of the poll enthusiasm in the rural hinterland was the solution devised by poll authorities to facilitate voting in a waterlogged booth at Kambleshwar near Baramati.

With waters yet to recede, poll officials and local authorities with the help of villagers set up a pontoon bridge of tractor trolleys to help residents cast their votes.

Confident of victory

Prominent politicians who cast their votes in the region included senior NCP leader and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, the party’s candidate from Baramati, bastion of the Pawar clan. Mr. Pawar, who has been Baramati’s MLA since 1991, is seeking a term for the seventh straight time. He is pitted against the BJP’s Gopichand Padalkar, an influential Dhangar community leader.

“The people of Baramati have always reposed their trust in the Pawar family... this time, the election campaign has seen a healthy participation of youths,” said Sunetra Pawar, Mr. Pawar’s wife, expressing confidence that her husband would win by a large margin.

Rural voters turn out in strong numbers

Meanwhile, the BJP leaders also expressed confidence in a securing massive mandate. “Just as in the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP-Shiv Sena-RPI (A) alliance will secure a massive mandate in the Assembly polls,” said Union Minister Prakash Javadekar. He said the ‘Mahayuti’ would break all records.

Speaking after casting his vote in Pune, Mr. Javadekar claimed that the BJP-Sena would cross 222 seats in the State and beat the Congress’s record of 222 seats achieved in the 1972 elections.

After casting his vote from the high-stakes Kothrud Assembly segment, BJP State chief Chandrakant Patil claimed he would coast to victory with a massive margin of more than 1.6 lakh votes. “The BJP-Sena alliance will snare 250 of the 288 seats this time,” said Mr. Patil, who is pitted against the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s Kishore Shinde.

Earlier, while casting his vote, both opponents were seen sharing light moments with Mr. Patil jovially urging Mr. Shinde, who is being backed by the Congress-NCP alliance, to come over to the BJP. Mr. Shinde, in an equally humorous quip, turned down Mr. Patil’s offer.

Palpable resentment

Despite the ruling party’s confidence, there was palpable resentment against them in some quarters of the city. Several residents of housing societies in the city’s Aranyeshwar area, who were badly affected by the flash floods last month which claimed over 25 lives, boycotted the polls to protest the administration’s apathy.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 10:32:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/rural-voters-turn-out-in-strong-numbers/article29762392.ece

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