With the last date of filing nominations (January 21) drawing nearer, candidates of several parties are filing their nominations in Ghaziabad district, while independent candidates are yet to file their papers for the upcoming assembly polls.

The Uttar Pradesh assembly election is scheduled to be held from February 10 to March 7 in seven phases. Ghaziabad goes to polls in phase 1 of the election on February 10. Under phase 1, candidates began filing their nominations on January 14. Nominations will be scrutinised on January 24, and the last date of withdrawal of nominations is January 27, according to the Election Commission of India (ECI).

According to the latest electoral roll, there are 2,899,484 eligible voters in the five assembly segments — Loni, Muradnagar, Sahibabad, Ghaziabad and Modinagar — of the district.

According to official records of the district election office, nominations have so far been filed by Prerna Solanki (Muradnagar) from Nyay Party, Manoj Kumar Sharma (Muradnagar) from Subhashwadi Bharatiya Samajwadi Party, Nand Kishor Gurjar (Loni) from Bharatiya Janata Party, and Chhavi Yadav from the Aam Aadmi Party, Amarpal Sharma from Samajwadi Party and Sunil Sharma from the BJP have filed their nominations from Sahibabad.

Sushant Goyal (Ghaziabad) from the Congress, Rakesh Suri (Ghaziabad) from the Right to Recall Party and Sudesh Sharma (Modinagar) from Rashtriya Lok Dal have also filed their nominations.

“This time, the pandemic has affected the prospects of independent candidates. I was not socially active during the pandemic and the campaigning will also not be easy due to the restrictions imposed by ECI on account of the rising Covid cases. Supporters will also not come out. Due to all these factors, I have decided not to contest the elections this time,” said Shamsher Rana, who contested the 2017 elections as an independent candidate from Ghaziabad.

“It is not easy to contest elections as an independent candidate as we have to find funds for campaigning. Further, over a period of time, independent candidates have also understood that people vote more for political parties. Not to mention the difficulty in campaigning during a pandemic. All these factors are holding back independent candidates this time,” said Rajiv Sharma, who contested the 2017 elections as an independent candidate from the Sahibabad assembly constituency.

In the 2017 assembly elections, two of the six candidates contesting from Loni were independents while three of the 11 candidates from Sahibabad were independents. From Ghaziabad, five of 13 contesting candidates were independent, while seven of 14 candidates who contested from Muradnagar were independents. From Modinagar, three of the nine candidates were independents.

Experts said the present trend of elections is more focussed on political parties. “Over time, voters have shown an inclination towards major political parties. During the elections held in the past, many people contested as independents. However, social interactions have reduced due to the pandemic and expenditure on election campaigns is also taxing,” said associate professor (history) KK Sharma from MM College, Modinagar.

“The current trend of fewer independent candidates has put less burden on state resources. A separate ballot unit needs to be installed if the number of candidates contesting from an assembly is more than 16. Although anyone can contest elections in a democracy, independents have also figured out that their chances of winning an election are slim while contesting against bigger parties, which have huge resources at their disposal,” he added.

District election officer RK Singh could not be reached for his comments despite repeated attempts on Tuesday.

With regard to past performance, official records show that the option of ‘None of the above’ (NOTA) garnered more votes than independent candidates during the 2017 assembly elections.

People from Muradnagar voted on Nota, which received 1,053 votes — higher than the highest number of votes — 770 — garnered by an independent candidate in the 2017 assembly elections. In Sahibabad, Nota received 3,057 votes compared to 1,205 votes received by the candidate who polled the highest among independents. In Ghaziabad, Nota received 1,184 votes. Only the votes polled for one independent candidate from this seat was higher (2,136 votes) than the total votes Nota received. In Modinagar, 1,074 people voted for Nota compared to the 490 votes received by the best-performing independent candidate, while in Loni, only one independent candidate secured 3,808 votes, higher than the 1,663 votes Nota received.

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