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Citizens’ Team Urges EC to Probe Voter Intimidation in Amit Shah’s Constituency

BJP leaders and workers asked the voters to ensure that all votes go to the home minister in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar

Abdul Bari Masoud | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – A citizens’ team has strongly urged the Election Commission of India (ECI) to conduct an urgent investigation into allegations of voter intimidation and suppression in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar – the constituency of Home Minister Amit Shah.

The team sent a report to the ECI on Sunday detailing the accounts of hundreds of voters in several wards and booths in the Kalol and Vejalpur municipal areas, and Sanand Taluka. The team said the voters alleged that the BJP leaders and workers ‘intimidated’ them and asked them to ensure that all votes must go to Amit Shah.

The team consisting of Prof. Hemant Kumar Shah, noted Ahmedabad-based economist and writer; Lara Jesani, General Secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in Maharashtra; Kavita Krishnan, New Delhi-based feminist and writer; and Dev Desai, a social activist from Gujarat, sent the letter to the Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar with the detailed report about voters’ suppression. The team was asked by an influential civil society group, Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD), to inquire into reports of election malpractices.

The team members met and heard the accounts shared by voters in several wards and booths in the Kalol and Vejalpur municipal areas and Sanand taluka between May 14 and 18.

‘Swear by Kuldevi to Vote 

Only for Amit Shah’ 

In 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 vote. If you vote no one in the village will employ you.”  

Others said the BJP workers asked voters in their neighbourhood to gather publicly and swear by Kuldevi to vote only for “him” (Amit Shah), as a condition for being allowed to vote. 

Charges Against Amit Shah’s

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 said, 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 said another voter in the same village told them: “Jitu Bhai is a dangerous man, he’s very close to the Home Minister, and tangling with him means inviting an assault on one’s family.”

Allegations Against Police and

Election Commission Officials

In the village Geedhpura (Sanand Taluka), voters claimed that the BJP cadres got into the polling booths while police kept legitimate voters out. They were told that the voting had closed.

In village Andej, a 67-year-old Dalit voter 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 noon, they said it was lunch break, and to 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 to vote, let us help and guide you.” Then, she alleged, the EC official asked an unidentified man to go with her to the EVM, where he pressed the Lotus button, against her wishes.

‘Muslim Voters Sent to Ajmer’

In village Shantipura (Sanand Taluka) the BJP “arranged” a bus for Muslim voters to be taken to Ajmer on the 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

In the 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 Thrice

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.  

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.  

The letter demands that the ECI investigates if voters’ constitutionally guaranteed rights were curtailed in the Home Minister’s name and in his constituency. “The kind of voter suppression alleged is an exercise in disenfranchisement and demoralisation of non-BJP voters: in particular but not exclusively Dalit, OBC and Muslim voters i.e. from the marginalised 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,” the letter said.

Team members say they were moved by seeing the determination of 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 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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