The year 2017 was marked by an unprecedented agitation by Patidars for OBC status and quota as well as a dalit movement for human rights. Unlike in the past, when development was the main concern of voters, in the 2017 polls it is the forces that fuelled agitations for quota and human rights that will decide which way people vote.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) conducted a survey in February and March this year across 26 Lok Sabha constituencies with a sample of 13,000 voters. The survey to understand, 'Why they vote for a candidate,' revealed that a majority (8 out of 10 respondents) voted for caste and religion followed by those (7 out of 10) who also took into consideration the PM or the CM candidate.

Each person surveyed could rate his or her priority issues that decided his vote in a descending order. Interestingly, 6 out of every 10 respondents claimed they also have 'gifts and poll freebies' in mind. In both rural and urban Gujarat, 80% said better employment opportunities is the number 1 issue this election.

Major-General Anil Verma (Retd), head of ADR, said that the Gujarat survey follows a nationwide trend. "We found that caste and the PM or the CM candidate were the priority," Verma said.

ADR chief further said that in Gujarat, issues like job creation were a concern for both urban and rural voters while, at the same time, better public transport and empowerment, and security of women were top three issues about which people are most concerned.

The other important issues highlighted by the urban voter was training for jobs, encroachment of public land and lakes, and need for better policing and law and order. In rural areas, it is electricity for agriculture and irrigation programmes.

Pankti Jog of Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pehel (MAGP) said that the difficulties voters face while voting is also a major concern.

"In the 2015 municipal, nagarpalika and district, taluka panchayat polls, there were only nine complaints registered with the state election commissioner. This time we plan to reach out to voters at the booth-level through a WhatsApp number and a helpline," Jog said.

'Good work overrides crime charges'

Ahmedabad: The February-March ADR survey found that more than 70% of the voters are likely to vote for a candidate with a string of serious criminal cases registered against him if he does 'good work'.
Interestingly, nearly 73% respondents agreed that voters should avoid candidates who are 'seriously tainted'. About 61% respondents were aware that candidates distribute free gifts ahead of elections but only 29% of the total respondents knew that such gifts were illegal. Only 56% of respondents knew that they could get information about the criminal records of candidates easily.

Major-General Anil Verma (Retd.), head of ADR, said that 5 days ago the Supreme Court gave the central government an ultimatum to set up special fast-track courts to deal with pending cases against legislators and submit a scheme within six weeks.

"A similar order was passed in March 2014 where the respective high courts were to prepare a report of such fast-track courts and submit them to the apex court. We filed an RTI application but are yet to get a reply," Verma said.

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