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How Gujarat's saffron brigade targeted interior village in Vadgam, battleground of state's independent Dalit face

By Tanushree Gangopadhyay
Is the saffron brigade in a state of turmoil at the thought of losing at the hands of Gujarat's Dalit face, Jignesh Mevani, fighting from Vadgam, a North Gujarat constituency, as independent supported by Congress? Perturbed by this scenario, they appeared to have targeted an interior village of the constituency, Chhaniyana.
Deep down in this remote village of Banaskantha district, BJP candidate Vijay Chakravarty ruffled his sleeves and managed to suspend polling at the two booths 112 and 113 for five hours from 12 noon.
On a complaint Mevani had got ink marks put close to the election symbol adjacent to his name on the EVM, Chakravarty he and his agent Rakesh Vagmar alleged thst the rival candidate had tampered with the machine. He demanded that the polls be stalled and repoll be ordered.
They refused to listen to polling officials, who were compelled to clean the machine to continue the polling. Presiding Officer Bhuvan Sadhu, exasperated by the protesting BJP, said that 744 votes out of 1,920 had already been cast. Over 100 voters were in the queue to cast their votes.
"How can we allow the polling, as most villagers are illiterate. They will get influenced to vote for Mevani after seeing the ink marks," thundered Vagmer. "We want two new machines and the polls can certainly be held tomorrow. We have given applications to the Presiding Officer."
Sadhu was anguished at such behaviour saying that "even as the voters are keen to continue, they are shouting at me. It is not my fault, the Election Commission has to take the decision." Polling was restarted after Mevani came and insisted on continuing. Vagmere, Chakravarty and several others refused to allow any polling.
Returning Officer DK Hadiyol, who rushed, in could not handle the situation, as they continued to argue and created a din. "I am in no position to stall the polling. The Election Commission (EC) is the decision making authority."
EC ordered a repoll, but the whole episode suggested BJP frustration.
A scheduled caste constituency, Vadgam has a unique demographic profile. It has mainly Chowdhary, Dalit and Muslim communities. It is a potato bowl, say farmers. "We also grow wheat, groundnut and several other vegetables. It is an important point for Banas dairy. Our village is an important automobile centre. We drive auto rickshaws", said a passerby.
"This has been a Congress bastion. My father Ashok Dabhi was an MLA from the Congress party soon after emergency", recalled Pradeep Dabhi. He runs two schools in the village, but lives in Palanpur, not very far away. Ironically, Haribhai Chowdhary, BJP MP from Banaskantha, belongs to this village.
"Jignesh's popularity has irked the BJP, hence they gave created this problem. They have needed some excuse to slurr him, hence they got someone to tamper with the EVM illegally", one of the women who squatted since 12 noon merely to cast their vote amidst the melee said. "We have come from long distance merely to exercise our franchise."
"Look at their audacity, they illegally photographed the EVM with the ink mark and posted it on WhatsApp", complained a Mevani supporter. "However ,this unruliness will certainly be overruled as it is illegal and very innocuous."
Mevani and his supporters in Vadgam are upbeat. They are confident of his victory. Habib Khan, tractor owner, said: "All the 25 villages I visited today gave Mevani the top. There are 2.60 lakh voters in 145 villages in the constituency. With 70 per cent voting we are sure to win."
Rojasana, Chhapia, Magarwada, Vadgam and several other villages had a heavy turn out. Students returned to Rojasana from Ahmedabad to vote.

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