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|October 3, 1999||
55-60 pc voting in Amethi; 28% in Lucknow
Apprehensions of violence and rigging proved largely misplaced as enthusiastic voters turned out in large numbers amid tight security to exercise their franchise in this high-profile constituency.
An estimated 55-60 per cent turnout was recorded as the much-publicised 'battle of legacy' for Amethi finally came to an end. However, one person was shot dead in a group clash at Bhimi village in the Amethi assembly segment. Narendra Singh was killed when two bullets were pumped into him about 100 metres from a polling station. But the police denied the incident was poll-related, attributing it to ''old enmity between two families.''
As polling closed at 1700 hrs, Priyanka was quick to claim victory for her mother, Congress president Sonia Gandhi. ''We have received reports from various parts of Amethi about electoral malpractices by the rivals but despite all this we are winning,'' Priyanka, who campaigned extensively here, said.
Women outnumbered men at most polling booths.
Voters in rural areas showed greater enthusiasm, queuing up outside polling stations well before polling began at 0700 hours. Women took the lead turning out in large numbers to exercise their franchise in this high-profile battle between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Sanjay Singh, a scion of the erstwhile princely state of Amethi.
Polling was progressing peacefully under extremely tight security, Sultanpur District Magistrate Anurag Srivastava told UNI. "13 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed in addition to the state police personnel,'' he said.
Shoot at sight orders have been given down the line and those found disrupting the poll process will be booked under the National Security Act, he added.
Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka and her husband Robert Vadra split into three teams to monitor polling. Rahul stayed at the Sanjay Gandhi hospital guest house till late afternoon while Priyanka went around polling centres in Amethi town. Vadra toured polling stations in the Gauriganj assembly segment.
Mobile sector magistrates, 17 each in Amethi and Gauriganj, 16 in Jagdishpur and one in Tilohi segment, of which four villages overlap with the Sultanpur district, were overseeing the arrangements. Twenty-five video camera teams have been deployed by the district administration to record the events.
In hyper-sensitive Sangrampur block about 13 km from Amethi, polling had almost been completed within four hours of polling, due to an unprecedented turnout. In three booths, all the people had cast their ballots by 1130 hours. At one polling station, about 150 people were waiting for their turn.
Regarding reports of rigging allegedly by sitting MP Sanjay Singh's supporters, DM Srivastav said, ''We have received some general complaints, both from the BJP and the Congress. We are enquiring into it.'' He denied knowledge of Congress allegations that Singh was moving around Amethi, with a revolver and forcing people not to vote.
About 25 per cent of 37 million voters cast their ballots till noon in 31 Lok Sabha constituencies of Uttar Pradesh in the last phase of the general election. Amethi recorded the maximum 35 per cent polling, while Lucknow registered a 28 per cent turnout, state Chief Electoral Officer Noor Mohammad said.
The prime minister -- who is contesting the Lucknow seat -- was among the early voters. He voted at the Bishan Narain inter college polling station. This is the first time Atal Bihari Vajpayee has cast his ballot as prime minister.
Overcast conditions and a light drizzle seem to have affected the turnout which was hardly 14 per cent till 1100 hours. Polling picked up later in the day with rural voters showing more enthusiasm than the urban.
Massive security arrangements have been made in Lucknow where as many as 1,742 polling stations have been set up for 1,552,441 voters.
About 34 companies of paramilitary forces and the Provincial Armed Constabulary have been deployed in the constituency where no untoward incident was reported from anywhere so far.
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