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|February 20, 1998|
Campaigning ends in 183 seats, EC gears up for second phase
The stage is set for Sunday's polling for 183 Lok Sabha seats as campaigning drew to a close at 1700 hours IST on Friday in these constituencies spread over nine states and Pondicherry.
Barring the bomb blasts in Coimbatore which forced postponement of polling there to February 28, electioneering for the second round voting was peaceful.
Canvassing, however, generated much heat with leaders of the Congress, BJP and United Front constituents levelling weighty charges against one another.
The last day of campaigning saw Prime Minister I K Gujral addressing meetings in Karnataka where he blamed the Inter Services Intelligence of Pakistan for the Coimbatore blasts and similar attempts in Jalandhar and Tripura.
Earlier, Congress president Sitaram Kesri had suspected the involvement of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh for the blasts, resulting in the RSS filing a criminal defamation suit against him and invoking sharp criticism from the BJP.
Unwilling to take his victory for granted, BJP leader A B Vajpayee devoted his time campaigning in his constituency, Lucknow, on the last day, Friday.
The Election Commission, meanwhile, has countermanded the election in the Patna Lok Sabha constituency.
The 183 constituencies are in Pondicherry (one), which will have a one-day poll, Andhra Pradesh (21), Bihar (20), Karnataka (10), Tamil Nadu (24) and Uttar Pradesh (33) -- which will have a second and final phase, save Coimbatore (TN) -- and Maharashtra (24), Madhya Pradesh (20), West Bengal (20) and Orissa (10) which will have the first phase of the election.
Among the prominent personalities involved in Sunday's poll are Vajpayee (Lucknow, UP), P Chidambaram (Sivaganga, TN), Mulayam Singh Yadav (Sambhal, UP), Chaturanan Mishra (Madhubani, Bihar) and Ramvilas Paswan (Hajipur, Bihar).
Uttar Pradesh: Campaigning for the second and final phase of the Lok Sabha election in the state involving 33 constituencies ended on Friday evening on a peaceful note.
In the first phase of elections on February 16, polling was held in 52 of the total 85 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state .
In the second phase of Lok Sabha elections to be held on Sunday, as many as 380 candidates are in the fray.
Figuring in the second phase of election will be a former prime minister and two former chief ministers, besides some former Union ministers.
Former prime minister Vajpayee is seeking re-election from Lucknow, where he is being challenged by film-maker Muzzafar Ali of the Samajwadi Party. Dauji Gupta, a former mayor of Lucknow (BSP), and Ranjit Singh of the Congress are also in the fray.
The prestige of Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav will be at stake in the Sambhal constituency in western Uttar Pradesh where former UP minister D P Yadav is challenging him as a Jantantrik Bahujan Samaj Party candidate contesting on the BJP symbol.
In Nainital, former chief minister and UP Congress president N D Tiwari is locked in a stiff contest with Ila Pant, wife of former Union minister and Congress leader K C Pant, contesting on a BJP ticket.
Union Minister for Communications Beni Prasad Verma is seeking re-election from Kaiserganj where he is pitted against Ghanshyam Dubey of the BJP and Farid Mahfooz Kidwai of the Bahujan Samaj Party.
Others involved in the second phase of elections in the state are the former ruler of Tehri, Manvendra Singh (Tehri), Major General (retd) B C Khandoori (Garhwal), former India opening batsman Chetan Chauhan (Amroha), Begum Noor Banu (Rampur), Maneka Gandhi (Pilibhit) and former Union ministers Salim Sherwani and Arif Mohammad Khan in Badaun and Bahraich respectively.
The campaigning in the second phase was as lacklustre as in the first phase.
Largely owing to the enforcement of the model code of conduct by the Election Commission, electioneering this time was without blaring loudspeakers, gaudy posters and huge cutouts of leaders.
The candidates mostly relied on rallies and public meetings, and door to door canvassing with the voters.
Barring minor incidents and skirmishes, there had been no untoward incident during campaigning.
As many as 262,000 poll personnel and 242,000 securitymen have been deployed in the 33 constituencies to ensure peaceful polling in 47,556 polling stations set up for Sunday's elections.
Maharashtra: Electioneering ended at 1700 hours IST in 24 constituencies going to polls on Sunday in the first phase of the Lok Sabha election in Maharashtra.
The campaigning was by and large peaceful and no serious incident was reported from any of the constituencies. Involved in the poll are 23.9 million voters, including 12.6 million women voters, who will decide the fate of 179 candidates.
Prominent among them are former Maharashtra chief minister Sudhakarrao Naik (Washim), former Lok Sabha speaker Shivraj Patil (Latur), former Union ministers Vilas Muttemwar (Nagpur) and Mukul Wasnik (Buldhana), former Congress general secretary Sushilkumar Shinde (Solapur) and Maharashtra rural development minister Anna Dange (Sangli).
Compared with the past elections the campaigning was lacklustre, with fewer posters, banners and graffiti on display, thanks to the enforcement of the model code of conduct and rules. The candidates mostly stuck to corner meetings, padyatras and door-to-door campaigning. However. the rallies addressed by national leaders, particularly by Congress star campaigner Sonia Gandhi and Vajpayee, BJP president L K Advani and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray drew large crowds, and added some semblance of colour to the otherwise drab electioneering.
Besides Vajpayee, Advani and Thackeray, Chief Minister Manohar Joshi, deputy chief minister Gopinath Mundhe and Sena leaders Raj and Uddhav Thackeray also campaigned for the Sena-BJP alliance. Former defence minister Sharad Pawar and leader of the Opposition in the legislative council Chhagan Bhujbal and former parliamentary affairs minister Ghulam Nabi Azad bore most of the Congress campaigning.
Gandhi addressed about ten campaign meetings of the Congress during her whirlwind tours in three phases at Nandurbar, Beed, Solapur, Latur, Kolhapur, Buldhana, Nagpur, Chandrapur, Nanded and Hingoli.
Tamil Nadu: Campaigning for the second phase of polling in the state, which was bloodied by the serial blasts at Coimbatore leaving 60 people dead and more than 150 injured, ended on a sombre note on Friday evening.
The blasts had rocked the textile city when Advani was scheduled to address a campaign meeting on February 14 last in favour of the BJP-AIADMK combine.
With the Election Commission, in the wake of the violence, postponing the election for the Coimbatore seat to February 28, polling in 24 other constituencies and two assembly constituencies -- Aruppukkottai and Coonoor -- would be held on February 22.
An electorate of 28.5 million will decide the electoral fortunes of 181 candidates, including those of the two major political fronts in the reckoning -- the DMK-TMC-CPI combine and the AIADMK-led front.
The heavyweights in the fray include Union ministers P Chidambaram (Sivaganga), M Arunachalam (Tenkasi), T G Venkatraman (Tindivanam), S R Balasubramaniam (Nilgiris) and Dhanushkodi Adityan (Tiruchendur), Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy (Madurai), Marumalarchi DMK general secretary Vaiko (Sivakasi), former ministers K Kalimuthu (Sivaganga), V Sathyamurthy (Ramanathapuram) and S Thirunavukkarasu (Pudukkottai), former assembly speaker Sedapatti R Muthiah (Periyakulam), Devendrar Sangam legislator Dr K Krishnaswamy (Tenkasi), Mani Shankar Aiyar (Mayiladuturai), film stars Sharath Kumar (Tirunelveli), Ramarajan (Tiruchendur) and Latha (Dindigul).
A relatively low turnout of 58 per cent, ascribed to voter apathy, marked the first phase of polling in 14 constituencies on Monday.
Karnataka: The curtain rung down on a hectic and intense campaign in ten of the 28 Lok Sabha constituencies in Karnataka on Friday evening for the second phase of polling on February 22.
An estimated 11.66 million voters, including 5.79 million women, will decide the electoral fortunes of 70 candidates in the fray.
The ruling Janata Dal and Congress have fielded candidates in all the 10 seats, while the BJP and its poll ally, the Lok Shakti, have fielded five candidates each.
Prominent candidates in the fray include former Union minister R L Jalappa, who is taking on state agriculture minister C Byre Gowda (Janata Dal) and cine actresss Jayanthi in Chikballapur, state excise minister Thippeswamy in Chitradurga is facing former Bangalore city commissioner of police P Kodandaramaiah (Lok Shakti), who won the seat in 1996 as a Janata Dal candidate, and former Lok Sabha deputy speaker S Mallikjarjunaiah (BJP) in Tumkur.
Prime Minister I K Gujral was the key campaigner during the second phase, having addressed meetings in Davangere, Koppal and Gulbarga to solicit votes for Janata Dal candidates. None of the BJP stalwarts were seen during this phase, which saw intense campaign by the other players.
Other prominent campaigners during the second phase were Sonia Gandhi, who addressed meetings in Gulbarga and Raichur on February 16. For the ruling Janata Dal the main campaigners were Chief Minister J H Patel and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda. Lok Shakti chief and former chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde also toured extensively.
An estimated 66.51 per cent of voters exercised their franchise during the first phase of poll on February 16.
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