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No political campaigning, this Gujarat village records nearly 100% voting record

Despite prohibiting the entry of political parties and there being a total ban on election campaigning since the 1980s, Raj Samadhiyala recorded a voter turnout of 95% during the elections.

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The village development committee has formed a set of rules, non-adherence to which attract fines, that is binding on everyone. Not casting vote attracts a fine of Rs 51.

By Milan Sharma: Raj Samadhiyala, a village 20km away from Gujarat’s Rajkot, is setting an example of a model village. Despite prohibiting the entry of political parties and there being a total ban on election campaigning since the 1980s, almost 95% of the people in the village, which has population of around 1,050, cast their vote during the elections.

In fact, the village development committee imposes a fine of Rs 51 on those who do not cast their vote during the elections.

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The idea of preventing the entry of political parties and cutting down on political activities here in the village is the brainchild of sarpanch Hardev Singh.

* More from IndiaToday.in's Election 2022 coverage: Gujarat assembly polls 2022 | Himachal Pradesh assembly polls 2022 | Full coverage

“The village has been a model since 1983… no campaigning is allowed her. No MLA has ever been allowed to come here. The political parties are also aware that if they come to campaign here in Raj Samadhiyala, they will ruin their chances of winning from Rajkot rural. The panchayats here are so powerful that their decision impacts the victory margin of any party candidate,” said Hardev Singh.

The village panchayat here is so powerful that its decision impacts the prospects of any party candidate.

“It is compulsory for people in our village to vote, otherwise a fine of Rs 51 is slapped on them. If someone cannot vote for any genuine reason such as a medical emergency, they will have to inform the village development committee,” said the sarpanch.

The sarpanch of the village is also elected by consensus with the village development committee framing the rules for the elections.

“Be it legislative elections or parliamentary polls, our village records a voting percentage of around 96%. We make an exception only for married woman who are living elsewhere and for the elderly who are being taken care of by their children,” said Hardev Singh.

So is the voting process democratic in the village? Locals said, “A few days before the polls, the members of the village development committee (panchayat) convene a meeting with the villagers. If someone is unable to cast his vote, a reason has to be given to the committee.”

A local in the village said, “Since candidates are not allowed to campaign, people of our village vote whosoever they think is good or they go with the decision of the committee that comprises representatives of all communities.”

The village has concrete roads, there is no garbage or plastic strewn around.

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“I have been living here since birth. We don’t want anything from the MLAs or political parties. Mostly everyone here is a farmer, we grow our produce and sell it in the nearby factories,” said the local.

Groundnut farming and cotton farming are undertaken here. Most people belong to the Patidar community, but the village also has many people from the Maldhari community along with Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and members of the Thakur community.

The village has every modern amenity, such as Wi-Fi, CCTV cameras, an RO plant for providing potable water. The grants and funds allocated to the panchayat are utilised for development works.

Also Read | 'No roads, no votes': Villages in Gujarat boycott Assembly election

The village has concrete roads, there is no garbage strewn around or plastic. The village has clean toilets for both men and women, markets, a small cricket stadium, a lack of which plagues several developed cities in the country. The village was declared open defecation free in 2017.

Apart from fining people Rs 51 for not casting their vote, a fine of Rs 500 is also imposed if people take their issues to the police instead of the Lok Adalat or engage in blind faith practices. Even women are very safe in the village, say locals.

Now, 10 villages falling within 20km vicinity of the model village, have taken the decision to follow the example set by Raj Samadhiyala and not allow political parties to enter. These 10 villages, including Raj Samadhiyala, collectively have a population of 5,000 to 6,000.