A survey on the voting behaviour of people in Gujarat showed caste and religion of a candidate to be the topmost consideration for voters, and a majority of them were also well aware that nominees distributed gifts and money ahead of elections.

“People in Gujarat gave most importance to the caste/religion of a candidate, followed by the PM or the CM candidate from the party of the candidate. The candidate (fighting the polls) was given the least importance,” revealed a mid-term survey report prepared by Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR). The survey was conducted during February-March 2017 and was made public on Monday.

The survey also observed that nearly 61 per cent of the respondents in Gujarat were well aware that candidates distributed gifts and money ahead of elections. However, only 29 per cent knew that such distribution was illegal, said ADR chief Major General Anil Verma (retired).

Over 70 per cent of respondents said they were ready to ignore the criminal record of a candidate because of their “good work”, the survey revealed. Majority of the people felt the cases against candidates “were not serious”, while a large section of them voted for politicians facing criminal charges because they belonged to their own caste or religion.

Out of the 150 MLAs of Gujarat whose affidavits were analysed by ADR, 49 of them (31 per cent) had declared pending criminal cases ahead of the 2012 elections. BJP had the maximum number of MLAs (30) with criminal cases, followed by Congress (15) and NCP (2). Similarly, out of the 26 Lok Sabha MPs from Gujarat, 27 per cent of them (all from BJP) had serious criminal cases. Among the Rajya Sabha MPs from Gujarat, only 22 per cent declared criminal cases against them in the affidavits.

The survey also showed that employment, public transport and empowerment of women were among the top 10 issues about which voters were the most concerned. In rural Gujarat, voters rated “price-realisation for farm products” as the second most important issue. Verma said the findings of the survey in Gujarat were similar to the those across India.

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