Citizens cast their votes in the gram panchayat election at Anjurdiva village in Bhiwandi on Friday. (Praful Gangurde)
Citizens cast their votes in the gram panchayat election at Anjurdiva village in Bhiwandi on Friday. (Praful Gangurde)

Maharashtra: 79% voting turnout for elections of 12,711 village panchayats

Termed as a litmus test for the ruling parties as well as the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a year after the changed political equations in the state, polls for more than half of the state’s village panchayats were held on Friday
By Surendra P Gangan & Sajana Nambiar, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2021 01:12 AM IST

Termed as a litmus test for the ruling parties as well as the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a year after the changed political equations in the state, polls for more than half of the state’s village panchayats were held on Friday. The voting turnout for the panchayats was 79%, according to the State Election Commission (SEC). Counting of the votes will take place on Monday 18.

Of the 14,234 panchayats for which the elections were announced last month, 12,711 saw voting on Friday, while 162 panchayats in Gadchiroli district will go to the polls on January 20. Most of the remaining panchayats saw members either elected unopposed, partially or fully. Elections to two gram panchayats in Nandurbar and Nashik were cancelled by the SEC after a probe found the posts of sarpanch and panchayat members to be auctioned from amongst the candidates.

According to the records, 214,880 candidates were in the fray for 125,709 seats, for which 356,221 nominations were filed and 26,718 members were elected unopposed.

Though the gram panchayat elections are not fought on party symbols, political parties field their workers to wrest power in the village bodies. “Elected representatives in district and tehsil-level local bodies – district councils and panchayat samities – take a keen interest in the elections to ensure that the party workers are elected in the village panchayat. The political parties see the village panchayat elections as their opportunity to strengthen the party base in villages. The BJP, during its five-year regime at the state level, successfully brought many village panchayats under its control. Similarly, after the change in the political equation in the state, the three ruling parties will now try to gain control over them,” said a Congress leader.

The leader said that the panchayat elections will prove to be a litmus test for the ruling parties, a year after the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA), comprising of the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, was formed. The ruling alliance had recently bagged four of five Legislative Council seats from the graduates’ and teachers’ constituencies. It expects a repetition in these elections too.

Three ruling parties had announced to contest the gram panchayat elections separately. The MVA government had scrapped the previous Devendra Fadnavis government’s decision of electing sarpanchs or panchayat heads directly from the voters.

In Thane district, gram panchayat elections saw an estimated turnout of over 80% as per the district election commission. Voting was highest in Bhiwandi (75% by 3.30pm) followed by Ambernath (74%), while the lowest turnout was seen in Kalyan (60%).

A scuffle between two groups was reported in Khoni gram panchayat in Kalyan taluka. Manpada police have filed a non-cognizable offence against three who were found distributing cash in Khoni village on Thursday night, ahead of the election. Apart from this, no major glitches or incidents of violence were reported across the district.

A total of 1.78 lakh voters went to the polls across the district, including 85,627 women voters and 92,986 men voters till 3.30pm. The total number of registered voters from Thane district is 2.50 lakh.

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