The power of a vote in Maharashtra’s village polls

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on January 15, 2021

Barred entry earlier, villagers dubbed as Covid carriers now get the red carpet treatment

Just a few months ago, Tatya Bhokre (name changed) who works as a driver in a private company in Pune was yearning to return to his native village Beldare in Karad taluka. The outbreak of Covid-19 was at its peak in the city and a fearful Tatya wanted to return to his village.

When he reached the border, however, there was a barricade manned by four villagers who stopped him from entering the village. “You city people will bring the virus to the village. Please go back or quarantine yourself for 14 days and only then enter the village,” they said.

Today, Tatya has been invited to visit the village with a to and fro ticket fare. What has caused the turnabout in the village’s sentiments? It is the gram panchayat elections.

Also read: Covid-19-led crisis leading the way to ‘feminisation’ of agriculture in Maharashtra

Valuable votes

“Today is voting day. I am getting whatever I ask for. I feel like a Maharaja,” a beaming Tatya said. He added that he had scolded the villagers for their hostile and unwelcoming attitude.

About 14,000 villages spread over 34 districts in Maharashtra voted on Friday in the gram panchayat elections. Many villages are witnessing keenly-fought political battles.

Votes of villagers who have settled in cities, but still have their names in the voting lists of their hamlets, are valuable as close contests are on the cards. Therefore, village leaders are rolling out the red carpet for them. Many have even sent private vehicles to bring back the migrants to vote.

Changed attitude

When you quiz the villagers about the risk of coronavirus, they quickly try and change the topic. “After all, these are our own people. It is their village and they have every right to come here,” says TD Gaikwad, a villager from Mhaisal in Sangli district.

“Covid-19 has disappeared now and the vaccine is also in the market. Why are you digging out the dead virus?” queries Gaikwad when questioned about villages banning entry to citizens after March 2020.

The gram panchayat elections are crucial for political parties, especially the ruling Shiv Sena-NCP and Congress combine which is trying to get the validation to its post-Assembly poll alliance by winning the village polls.



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Published on January 15, 2021
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