Poll drives first vehicle into this village
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Surrounded on three sides by water from the Karjan dam and on the fourth by a forest, Junaraj village had never seen a four-wheeler. Until Wednesday. A jeep carrying an electronic voting machine drove into Junaraj the day before Nandod constituency voted in the first phase of the Gujarat elections.
Until the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, officials had been transporting the sole EVM by boat from Rajpipla, the district headquarters. This time, election officials decided the EVM would be taken by road, one of 20-odd km built by the forest department, to the only booth in the village of 816 voters. The road was completed days ago.
"This is the first time a four-wheeler has come to our village," said village talati Ramesh Vasava. "The forest department started building the road a year ago and completed it just a few days ago, though it is largely unpaved."
Nandod is a new ST-reserved constituency in Narmada district carved out of Rajpipla constituency, which ceases to exist after delimitation.
The villagers say they would still prefer a boat to ferry the ill to the hospital at Rajpipla. "We were given a machine boat by government officials but it refuses to start and is lying unused," said Ranchhodbhai Vasava, 50. "Now, officials ask us to use the road that is yet to be paved and is quite risky to drive on."
None of the candidates for this election campaigned in the village. "Some party workers from both the BJP and the Congress did visit us, but the candidates themselves didn't come because it had no roads. Our MLA (Harshad Vasava) never came here either," Vasava said.
Village sarpanch Gopalbhai Vasava, however, said the BJP MLA has taken special care of the village. "Last year, we ferried 152 tonnes prefabricated material in boats to build a primary school and an anganwadi centre here," he said. "Although we don't have electricity here, we use solar panels as a source of power, and it is working fine," he said.