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Gujarat to introduce compulsory voting in local body polls: CM

Rajkot/Ahmedabad:  Gujarat will introduce compulsory voting in the upcoming local bodies polls, which are likely to be held in October, and the process of framing rules for default voters is underway."We are in the process
PTI June 18, 2015 16:34 IST
PTI

Rajkot/Ahmedabad:  Gujarat will introduce compulsory voting in the upcoming local bodies polls, which are likely to be held in October, and the process of framing rules for default voters is underway.

"We are in the process of notifying rules for compulsory voting bill. It will be implemented in Gujarat in corporation and the district Panchayat elections," Chief Minister Anandiben Patel said today.

She was answering a query on whether the Gujarat government will implement the compulsory voting bill in the upcoming local bodies elections.

"The state government has made all the necessary arrangements to implement compulsory voting in the state. We have also been framing rules for people like those who cannot caste their votes and the norms will be declared very soon," added Patel.

"We have given orders of machines (electronic voting machine) and those machines will come in time as well. So without any fear, all of us should participate in compulsory voting," she said.

Patel was in Rajkot to kick off 'Shala Pravesotsav' (school enrollment) drive of the state government at Karansinhji school of Rajkot Municipal Corporation.  

Opposition Congress criticised the move saying that the Gujarat government is 'imposing' compulsory voting through the power of majority.

"You can pass the laws through majority but you have to see the spirit behind it. Such compulsory voting system is imposed on communist countries like Russia and China. People will be harassed in such system," Leader of Opposition in state Assembly, Shankarsinh Vaghela said.  

"Voting is the matter of one's own will...You cannot pressurise or impose it on people. This is government's pressure on people to make them cast their votes," Vaghela added.

"The laws should be in consonance with constitution. Our country's constitution gives right to the vote to people and now it is upto the people whether they want to cast their votes or not," Vaghela told reporters here.

Polls in 253 municipalities, 208 taluka panchayat, 26 district panchayat and 6 municipal corporations are expected to be held in October this year.

The compulsory voting bill was first passed by the state Assembly in 2009. However, then Governor Dr Kamla had rejected the bill.

It was once again passed in 2011, which makes voting mandatory in civic polls and has a provision of punishment.  

The bill had been lying without Governor's assent ever since.  

Then, in November 2014, Gujarat Governor O P Kohli gave his approval to the bill and it became an Act.  

Since the Act has a controversial provision of penal action against those who fail to cast their franchise, state government formed a committee and asked citizens to convey their opinions and suggestions to the committee for framing of rules.

Recently, it is learned that the committee has compiled suggestions and submitted the report to the state government.  

Sources have revealed that government will not make a provision of harsh action against those who fail to cast their votes in the elections.

It is learnt that rules for the Act, to be declared next week, will be milder for first time offenders, senior citizens and people who migrate for their work.