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Urgently probe voter intimidation in Gandhinagar constituency: Plea to ECI

Counterview Desk 

“BJP said do not vote, all votes must go to Amit Shah”, many Gandhinagar voters from Dalit, OBC, Muslim and Darbar communities have alleged, says a letter sent to the Election Commission of India (ECI), signed by members of a citizens’ group organised by human rights organisation Anhad.
Insisting that that ECI must “urgently investigate voter intimidation and suppression in Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s constituency”, the letter, sent on 2 June 2024 to the chief election commissioner (CEC), claims to have been written following the team’s inquire into reports of electoral malpractices in the constituency.
Those who participated in the “investigation” between 14 and 18 May included Prof Hemant Kumar Shah (Ahmedabad-based economist and writer), Lara Jesani (general secretary, People's Union for Civil Liberties, Maharashtra), Kavita Krishnan (Delhi-based feminist and writer), and Dev Desai (social activist, Gujarat). 
The team “met heard the accounts shared by voters in several wards and booths in the Kalol and Vejalpur municipal areas, and Sanand taluka”, it asserts.

Anhad note:

Swear by ‘Kuldevi’ To vote only for Amit Shah”

Vakrana village in Sanand taluka, several Dalit and OBC voters told the team that members of dominant castes and supporters of BJP’s former Gujarat General Secretary Pradip Singh Vaghela, had warned them: “no one from your mohalla (neighbourhood) should go to cast their vote, if you vote no one in the village will employ you.”
Others said that BJP men asked voters in their neighbourhood to gather publicly and swear by the Kuldevi to vote only for “him” (Amit Shah), as a condition for being allowed to vote.

Allegations against Amit Shah protege Jitu Vaghani

In village Kanetthi (Sanand taluka), a Dalit woman voter told the team that she was prevented from voting by a protege of Amit Shah, Jitu Vaghani aka ‘Jitu Bhai’, the BJP MLA from Bhavnagar West. She alleged: “When I arrived at the polling station, Jitu Bhai asked, What is the matter with you? Do you dislike development for this village or the nation, is that why you turn up to vote? Consider the interests of this village and for its sake go back. Your vote has already been given to Amit Shah.”
The team has told the CEC that a man in the same village said to them, “Jitu Bhai is a dangerous man, he’s very close to the Home Minister, tangling with him means inviting an assault on one’s family.”

Allegations against police and EC officials

In village Geedhpura (Sanand taluka), voters of the land-owning a young man from the land-owning Darbar community told the team, “BJP cadres got into the polling booth while police kept legitimate voters out of the booth, telling them, time’s up, voting is now closed.”
In village Andej, a Dalit voter aged 67 told the team, “I first tried to vote at 8 am, the EC officials said there’s no electricity, come later. When I went again at 12 pm, they said it’s a lunch break, try again later. On my third attempt at 4 pm, they finally let me vote.”
Also in Andej, a 19-year-old woman, eager to vote in her first election, said, “The election official asked me, are you educated? I replied that I never got a chance to go to school, and he said, then how will you be able vote, let us help and guide you.” Then, she alleged, the EC official asked an unidentified man with her to the EVM, where he pressed the Lotus button, against her wishes.

“Muslim voters sent to Ajmer by bus on polling day”

In village Shantipura (Sanand Taluka) the BJP “arranged” a bus for Muslim voters to be taken to Ajmer on voting day. A Muslim man who stayed back to vote said the police told him to go home: “Anyway your vote is useless because the results are a foregone conclusion, the Home Minister is bound to win.”

Intimidation by miscreants and criminals

In Kalol Municipality Area, petty criminals from the Muslim community, some of them released from prison on parole on the eve of elections, ganged up to keep voters from reaching the polling station. In Juhapura (Ahmedabad), India’s largest Muslim ghetto, voters were intimidated by a dangerous criminal ‘Kalu Gardan’ – thus named because he is said to slit the throat (gardan) of any challenger to his fiefdom.

“Turned away three times, voted on fourth try”

Most women voters in Rahimpura (Kalol municipality) said they were turned away on their first attempt to vote. Some voters said they were turned away as many as three times in the morning before being able to vote on their fourth try later in the day.

“Amit Shah wants to win by highest margin in India”

The letter also asks the ECI to investigate allegations by many voters that BJP workers had been told to ensure that Amit Shah wins by a margin of 10 lakh votes – the highest in India.

Investigate if Constitutional rights were curtailed in Home Minister’s name

The letter demands that the ECI investigate if voters’ constitutionally guaranteed rights were curtailed in the Home Minister’s name and in his constituency. It says, “The kind of voter suppression alleged is an exercise in disenfranchisement and demoralization of non-BJP voters: in particular but not exclusively Dalit, OBC and Muslim voters i.e. from the marginalized communities. These allegations, if true, cast a shadow on the credibility of India’s free and fair election process and the democratic future of India.”
Team members say they were moved to see the determination of these voters to exercise their right to vote. Their letter says that the EC must ensure “justice to the democratic spirit of the voters of Gandhinagar, and to the whole country.” Voters are afraid to lodge formal complaints, and so, the team members demand “an independent investigation where Gandhinagar voters can testify without fear of reprisals.”
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Click here to read full letter 

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