The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | 15-09-2022 | 11:35 am
ON REGULAR rounds of Gujarat ahead of the Assembly elections, it was fitting that Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor Arvind Kejriwal made the most noise over a ride on an autorickshaw.The three-wheeler has been a vital cog in AAP election machinery, helping it ride to power in Delhi and blaze to national attention.In 2013, when the party started its campaign for the Delhi Assembly elections, autorickshaw drivers were its first campaign “partners”. Autos across the city put up AAP posters on their vehicles, free of cost, to help the fledgling party. Some even set up loudspeakers and played the AAP campaign song and messages all day long.In its first election manifesto, AAP promised to look into their issues such as fares, authorised parking spaces and harassment by cops.In Gujarat, Kejriwal has promised that if elected to power, his government would make licence and registration processes with the RTOs easier for autorickshaw drivers and ensure that Section 188 of the IPC (disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant) was not misused against them.ભાજપે લાખ કોશિશ કરી પણ અમે થંભીશું નહીં!!સામાન્ય રિક્ષાચાલકની સાથે રિક્ષામાં જ બેસીને જમવા અરવિંદ કેજરીવાલ રવાના! pic.twitter.com/0clXrgyXNl— AAP Gujarat | Mission2022 (@AAPGujarat) September 12, 2022The BJP, which is believed to command the support of most of the auto drivers in Ahmedabad, too has taken note. After autos with posters of AAP on the hood crowded the parking of the venue where Kejriwal held a town hall for autorickshaw drivers in Ahmedabad during his most recent visit, the BJP roped in autos to carry its posters, with a phone number for enrolment as member. The drive was launched in Khadia, a BJP bastion in the old city of Ahmedabad, with 100 autorickshaw drivers given such posters.Ashok Punjabi, who says he is affiliated with the Congress and is the chief convenor of the Gujarat Auto Rickshaw Action Committee, said Ahmedabad has around 2.2 lakh auto drivers, though only 2,200 odd are affiliated to unions. The city has some nine auto unions, including the Rickshaw Chalak Ekta Union, of which Vikram Dantani, at whose house Kejriwal dined, is a member.In Punjab too, late last year, when the party was in the middle of a hectic election campaign, Kejriwal had accepted a dinner invitation from an auto driver in Ludhiana. Just like Dantani did, Dilip Tiwari had invited Kejriwal to his home during a public event, and just like he did in Ahmedabad, the AAP leader had taken a ride with Tiwari in his auto.A senior AAP leader admitted the backing of the auto drivers as a block was a big factor. “As a party, we have always seen them as a key part of the public transportation system. The same thing has happened in other states as well. During Covid, we were the first government to provide monetary relief to auto and cab drivers for the hardship they faced during the lockdown. The common man will always be at the core of our politics and policies, and people like Dilip Tiwari and Vikram Dantani are representatives of the common man,” the leader said.માનનીય @ArvindKejriwal જી, @isudan_gadhvi, @Gopal_Italia તથા @AAPkaRajguru એ રિક્ષાચાલકના આમંત્રણનું માન રાખી એમની રિક્ષામાં બેસી એમના ઘરે જમવા ગયા! pic.twitter.com/JiDGCbJyDz— AAP Gujarat | Mission2022 (@AAPGujarat) September 12, 2022Even the few unpleasant encounters Kejriwal has had with auto drivers, the party has turned them around to its benefit. Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, for example, an auto driver had first garlanded the Delhi Chief Minister during a road show and then slapped him. A day later, Kejriwal went to meet the driver at his house and, after a conversation with him, said he forgave him. The driver, in turn, said he was upset with Kejriwal, but only because he had resigned from the government within 49 days.More recently, ahead of the 2020 Delhi Assembly polls, ‘I love Kejriwal’ stickers had appeared on many autos. An auto driver was even issued a challan of Rs 10,000 for displaying the political advertisement and “violating the Model Code of Conduct”. Following this, many drivers had painted over the pro-AAP messages on their vehicles.AAP Gujarat spokesperson Karan Barot said the party valued the affection and love it has got from auto drivers since Kejriwal started AAP. “In Gujarat as well, autorickshaw drivers love Kejriwal and AAP, and have themselves purchased and put our party posters on their autos.”Barot added that the support is a proof of the fact that AAP works for the welfare of the middle class, and to provide them basic amenities like education, health, electricity. “Autorickshaw chaalaks are also middle class.”🔥 इलाका तेरा धमाका मेरा 🔥#KejriwalRukegaNahi pic.twitter.com/uSvBSI9nZ4— AAP Gujarat | Mission2022 (@AAPGujarat) September 12, 2022According to top AAP leaders in Gujarat, dinner with Dantani was also part of the party’s emphasis on one-on-one interactions in its election campaign – distinct from the BJP’s high-voltage events around Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Kejriwal ensured this was the message that went across when he was briefly stopped by police on the way to Dantani’s home in Ahmedabad. Arguing with a police officer, the AAP leader said, “Your leaders, BJP leaders don’t go among the people. This is the problem. I am a public representative, I will be among the people.”An AAP leader said: “In all elections, our leaders make sure they meet as many people as they can. This has to continue after coming to power as well. When we go to a new state, we are going there to change its politics. So while our focus is on health and education, it is also on the common man and his problems.”The BJP accused Kejriwal of staging a “tamasha” in Ahmedabad to gain publicity. AAP-turned-BJP leader of Delhi Kapil Mishra claimed the Gujarat unit of AAP had itself written to police to provide adequate security to Kejriwal. “AAP wrote to police and asked for security, saying Kejriwal could be attacked. In Delhi, Kejriwal has 32 government vehicles (in his motorcade). This drama after asking for security is shameful,” Mishra tweeted.ये पढ़िए गुजरात में आम आदमी पार्टी ने खुद लेटर लिखकर केजरीवाल के लिए स्पेशल सुरक्षा की माँग की थीलेटर में लिखा था केजरीवाल पर हिंसक हमला हो सकता हैदिल्ली में केजरीवाल 32 सरकारी गाड़ियाँ लेकर चलते हैगुजरात में आज खुद सुरक्षा माँगकर , खुद ये तमाशा करना शर्मनाक pic.twitter.com/W9YDUUSGYF— Kapil Mishra (@KapilMishra_IND) September 12, 2022A BJP leader in Delhi claimed that Kejriwal’s support base among auto drivers in the Capital was not as strong as it was earlier. “Many people are disillusioned. Their promise of regular fare hikes, which was the most important for auto drivers, has not been followed through,” the leader said.In Ahmedabad, AAP is silent on some major issues of auto drivers such the rising price of gas, with almost all autos CNG-run.BJP Gujarat spokesperson Yamal Vyas denied the party was reacting to AAP’s campaign. “We are only using autorickshaws for publicity and campaigning, which is nothing new… We are not concerned with what Kejriwal is doing. We have a clear idea of what the people of Gujarat want. Kejriwal can do whatever he wants.”
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar on Tuesday said some “self-appointed astrologers” have declared dates of elections before his visit to Gujarat.Without taking his name, the CEC took a swipe at state BJP chief C R Paatil, who had said the Assembly polls may conclude by November-end, Kumar told reporters, “We take a decision on when to hold elections after taking into consideration all factors. Whenever the time comes, we inform the media and nobody else.”The CEC and a team of senior officials of the Election Commission of India (ECI) are in Gujarat to review the poll preparedness. Talking about the preparedness in Gujarat, the CEC said the ECI is working to connect more people through technology. The poll body has launched CVIGIL and KYC apps as well as Suvidha portal for candidates.The CEC said efforts are undertaken to encourage senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) to exercise their franchise. Out of the total 4.83 crore electors in Gujarat, 10.36 lakh voters are above the age of 80 while 11,842 are centenarians, he said, adding that the number of PWDs in the state is 4.13 lakh. He said, “We have asked collectors to send someone to the houses of centenarians to express gratitude and offer them respect.” The CEC said the last electoral rolls in Gujarat (before polls) will be published on October 10.For transparent and fair polls, the ECI will make provision for webcasting from over 50% of 5,178 polling booths in the state during the upcoming elections, he said. “We are taking very strong action in ensuring transparency in booths. These polling stations are identified as sensitive and critical booths,” Kumar said.Rajiv Kumar said the poll body will send booth-level officers (BLOs) to the residences of senior citizen voters who opt to vote from home. The process will be video-graphed. A similar facility will also be made for PWDs with over 40% disability.He said he has received some constructive suggestions from political parties, several of which such as web-casting of polling booths, not allowing candidates and party workers to ferry voters, and SOPs for poll code to ensure common citizens are not harassed will be implemented.About donations to political parties, the CEC said such donations should be disclosed. Candidates and political parties will be required to publish information regarding criminal antecedents in newspapers,he said.
GANDHINAGAR: Stating that fairness and transparency will be overriding factors in conduction of the assembly election later this year, chief election commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar said in Gandhinagar on Tuesday that candidates with criminal antecedents will be required to publish a list of cases pending against them. In addition, political parties who give tickets to such persons will be mandated to publish what compulsions they had to give tickets to persons with criminal backgrounds. Kumar said some "self-appointed astrologers" have declared dates of elections before his visit to Gujarat, an apparent swipe at state BJP chief C R Paatil who had recently said the assembly polls may conclude by November-end. "It is a different thing that there are some self-appointed astrologers who have announced the dates of elections before my visit here. I wish the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) was in force. If the MCC were in force, we would have reacted immediately," Kumar said. The CEC parried questions about the election schedule - dates and phases if any - stating, "We have discussed these issues in detail. The commission will shortly decide after receiving feedback from multiple sources." "We understand that everybody has the right to contest elections, but it is our duty to inform the voters about criminal antecedents, if any, of candidates. It has been mandated that every candidate who has criminal cases pending, must boldly publish advertisements at least three times in newspapers, listing out the cases pending," Kumar said. He added that the commission will upload this information on its website and the KYC (know your candidate) application as well. "Political parties who give tickets to candidates with criminal records will also have to publish advertisements, explaining what compulsions they had in giving tickets to candidates with criminal antecedents," The CEC added. Maintaining that transparency and fairness will be the prime aim of conducting elections, the CEC said that real-time webcasting will be done of about 25,000 of the total 51,000-odd polling stations in the Gujarat assembly election. Listing out some of the representations made by political parties during their interaction with a team of the EC, Kumar said parties expressed the need to monitor irregularities at polling stations more effectively. They also sought setting up of a single window system for all ECI-related activities, he added. "Parties also wanted voting hours to be extended and asked us to ensure that retired government employees are not assigned election duty," Kumar said. "Urban apathy is a pan-India problem. It brings down the overall voting percentage in an election. The EC will take up a special drive to encourage urban voters and youth to cast their vote," the CEC said. Out of the total 4.83 crore electors in Gujarat, 10.36 lakh voters are above the age of 80 while 11,842 are centenarians, the official said, adding that the number of PWDs in the state is 4.13 lakh.
GANDHINAGAR: The BJP has demanded that costs incurred on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's poll rallies in Gujarat be added to the party's expenses while the Congress has sought more transparency in the poll process. Both parties held meetings with Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar who began his two-day visit to the state on Monday. The CEC and a delegation of senior Election Commission officials are visiting Gujarat to review preparedness for the upcoming assembly polls and to meet political representatives, joint chief electoral officer of Gujarat, Ashok Patel, said. During their meeting with the CEC, the ruling BJP members demanded that voting hours be extended, said Gujarat BJP vice-president Gordhan Zadafia, who was part of the delegation which met the CEC in Gandhinagar. People are often not able to exercise their franchise because of long queues, said Zadafia. "Thus, we urged the CEC to extend voting hours to accommodate the working class, including those who work in agricultural fields," he said. The BJP also demanded that the costs incurred on PM Modi's election rallies be added to the party's expenditure instead of a candidate's, said BJP leader Parindu Bhagat, who was also part of the delegation. He cited the expenditure incurred by a candidate towards complying with the security protocols of the PM during his rallies. A Congress delegation led by senior leader Deepak Babariya urged the CEC to bring more transparency in the election process and to ensure that polling booths are not allotted based on the inclination of voters in a particular area towards a particular party. "In the past, EVMs went missing in large numbers and movement registers of EVMs were not shared with us," he said. "We demanded that the election process be made more transparent because many rules were flouted in the past." Babariya said, in some cases, the names of voters of an entire housing society went missing from the electors' list. "Polling booths were allotted 2-3km away if voters of that area were inclined to a particular party," said Babariya. "We urged the EC to make sure that such cases do not happen again."
An Election Commission of India team led by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey arrived in Gujarat on a two-day visit on Monday, even as BJP state chief CR Paatil indicated at a page committee meeting of the party in Anand that the election process may be “completed by November end”.Assembly elections are due in Gujarat in December when the term of the 14th Legislative Assembly ends.In its last visit to review poll preparedness, before election dates are announced, the ECI team held a meeting with district election officials from 33 districts and senior police officers with regard to law and order situation in the state. The team also met representatives of national parties in Gujarat. On Tuesday, the team will meet chief secretary Pankaj Kumar and DGP Ashish Bhatia. Speaking at the page committee meeting, Paatil said, “I feel that the (Gujarat) elections will be completed by the end of November. In 2012 and 2017, the elections were held from December 5. But this time, they may be advanced by about 10-12 days is what I feel. No one has told me this and I haven’t spoken to anyone… The media will say I declared the election dates but I don’t have that power.”Even as there has been talk about advancing the elections by “two weeks” as a top government official told The Indian Express, the BJP Monday submitted a 23-point memorandum to the ECI, urging it to “consider that the months of November and December are meant to be the most auspicious for weddings in the state of Gujarat”, while deciding on the polling dates.Government sources told this paper that a grand celebration of the birth centennial of Pramukh Swami Maharaj by the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purshottam Swaminarayan (BAPS) sect was likely to be held in December that would draw “a congregation of nearly one crore devotees” to Gujarat from all parts of the world. Majority of the followers of this sect are Patidars.The BJP handed out a list of suggestions to the EC that included request to exempt party candidates from “accounting for costs” pertaining to security arrangements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will be part of the poll campaign in the state.The memorandum states, “The expenses pertaining to the helipad, barricading, stage construction and security of PM Modi as well as other star campaigners, as will be decided by the various security agencies of the country, and not by the organisers of the campaign rally in the state. Therefore, these expenditures should not be counted as part of the candidate’s election expenses.”The Gujarat Congress, in its memorandum to the EC, sought that elections in South Gujarat and Saurashtra be held in a single phase, to avoid duplication of voters.Congress representatives said this was necessary as many residents from Saurashtra live and work in Surat and adjoining areas in South Gujarat. The Congress also sought that elections of North Gujarat and Ahmedabad be clubbed for the same reason.BJP general secretary Bhargav Bhatt said that the party’s request to the ECI was to consider that the polling dates may not clash with the most auspicious dates for weddings. Bhatt told this newspaper, “Elections in Gujarat are always held during November and December. The intention behind the party suggesting the ECI to consider that it is wedding season in Gujarat is for appropriate planning… For several years, the ECI, administration and all stakeholders have been working hard to ensure high voter turnout. Considering these aspects will help ensure high voter turnout… If the elections are slated for auspicious wedding days, it could affect voter turnout…”The BJP memorandum to the ECI, handed over by party vice-president Gordhan Zadafia and election legal cell convener Parindu Bhagat, also states that the ECI should “free the valuables including cash and election items” seized from individuals during raids by the flying squads during previous elections and also declare a Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) for cash seizure during elections. Bhagat told The Indian Express, “We have made very positive suggestions to the ECI. There have been instances when the (flying squads) have seized cash from women, who were not even directly involved in political activity, while they were on their way to jewellery stores and so on… There should be an SOP in place. Similarly, we have said that senior citizens and physically challenged persons should be allowed to cast ballots from home…”Regarding the declaration of elections, Bhagat said that the “power lies with the ECI” to announce the dates and the Model Code of Conduct will be implemented with “immediate effect” after the announcement.In the memorandum, the Congress asked the ECI to weed out duplicate voters from electoral rolls and the party also said it had cited 6,784 duplicate names in Mehsana assembly constituenty in their earlier communication to the ECI. The party also demanded district-wise list of duplicate names found in electoral rolls.The Congress party, represented by three leaders, also requested ECI to “physically” handover the VVPAT slip to the voter, before it is dropped into a box.
The All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) Monday released the first list of three candidates for the Gujarat Assembly elections.State AIMIM president and former Congress MLA Sabir Kabuliwala will contest from the Jamalpur Khadia seat in Ahmedabad and the party’s Surat district president Wasim Qureshi from Surat East.AIMIM will also field its women’s wing president Kaushika Parmar from Danilimda in Ahmedabad. While Danilimda and Jamalpur Khadia seats have Congress MLAs, the Surat East seat belongs to BJP.Expressing confidence in winning the Assembly polls, Kabuliwala told The Indian Express, “This time we will fight elections without being part of any alliance. We have decided to field candidates on 45-50 seats. In Ahmedabad, our candidates will contest from Jamalpur Khadia, Vejalpur, Dariyapur, Danilimda, Bapunagar seats, while from Surat, we will put two candidates from Surat East and Limbayat. We have not yet decided on the seats in Vadodara and Rajkot cities and other areas, but we are working on it.”Stating that they want remove “misconception” that AIMIM is “B-team of BJP”, he added, “In Gujarat many Congress MLAs had switched over to BJP. The situation is same in Goa. We don’t see that AAP will win any of the seats. They have created a good environment but it will not get converted into votes… They are giving lollypop in terms of guarantee cards, people will not accept them.”Parmar, who will contest his first elections, said, “I have worked a lot for the public during the pandemic time. Everybody knows me personally. I will set up an election office soon.”Qureshi, who hails from Sikar district in Rajasthan and is into the real estate business said, “We have seen the support given to AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi during his visit to Surat on May 23 at Limbayat area. We will work hard and start mohalla meetings and door-to-door meetings, during our election campaign.”