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Polling begins in four states

February 26, 2003 09:15 IST

Balloting for 65 constituencies in Himachal Pradesh and 60 each in Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura began on Wednesday morning.

More than 8.31 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise, which will decide the fate of four chief ministers, Prem Kumar Dhumal [Himachal Pradesh], S C Jamir [Nagaland], Flinder Anderson Khonglam [Meghalaya] and Manik Sarkar [Tripura], and others.

Himachal Pradesh: The sun was out in Shimla, allaying fears that the voters there would stay put in their homes due to cold.

There are 6230 polling booths all across the state. Sulah booth in Khaira constituency has the highest number of voters -- 1435 - and Taleru in Banikhet has the lowest -- 22.

Exclusive booths for women have been set up in Shimla district.

An electorate of 4,101,093 will decide the fate of 391 candidates. Prominent among them are Dhumal, former chief minister Virbhadra Singh, speaker of the dissolved assembly Ghulam Singh Thakur, state BJP president Jai Krishen Sharma and Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee president Vidya Stokes.

The BJP and Congress are contesting all the 68 seats, HVC 45, former Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party in 30, the Bahujan Samaj Party 23, the Samajwadi Party 19, the Nationalist Congress Party 15, the Communist Party of India seven and the CPI-Marxist four.

The Himachal Vikas Congress of former Union minister Sukh Ram, a post-poll ally of the BJP in the last five years, hopes to play a crucial role again after the elections.

The BJP and Congress are faced with rebels who may diminish the prospects of their official candidates.

Four BJP members, including Ram Dass Malangar, deputy speaker and the former agriculture minister Vidya Sagar, who were denied party tickets, are contesting as independents against the party candidates.

As many as 548 polling booths have been described hypersensitive and 1018 sensitive.

Polling for three snow-bound constituencies -- Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur and Pangi Bharmaur -- will be held on June 8.

Nagaland: Most constituencies are likely to witness a very close contest.

Over a million voters are expected to decide the fate of 225 candidates.

Among the prominent candidates are S C Jamir, former chief minister Hokishe Sema of the BJP, K L Chishi of the Nagaland

Democratic Party and Congress defector and former state home minister Neiphiu Rio.

The ruling Congress has fielded candidates in all the 60 seats, the Nagaland People's Front in 55, the BJP in 36, the Janata Dal-United in seven and the Nationalist Democratic Movement in 22 seats.

Jamir is pitted against the combined opposition candidate Chabala Ao, wife of the first chief minister of Nagaland P Shilo Ao, in the prestigious Aonglenden seat.

Sema is facing a tough fight from his Congress rival Kevi Zakiesatuo in Dimapur-1 constituency.

A thick security blanket has been thrown across the state and night curfew clamped in Kohima district to ensure peaceful polls.

Meghalaya: Over 12 lakh voters are expected to cast their ballots to decide the fortunes of 333 aspirants.

Chief Minister Khonglam, who is contesting under the banner of the Hill State People's Democratic Party, is locked in a five-cornered contest from Sohra.

Two former chief ministers, S C Marak [Congress] and E K Mawlong [United Democratic Party] are facing straight contests in Resubelpara and Umroi constituencies respectively.

Tripura: Chief Minister Manik Sarkar [Dhanpur] and two former chief ministers, Sudhir Ranjan Majumder and Samir Ranjan Burman, are among the 254 candidates in fray.

A total of 2,372 polling stations have been set up and out of these 124 have been identified as hypersensitive and 343 very sensitive.

The CPI-M alone is contesting 55 seats, the CPI two, the All India Forward Bloc one and the Revolutionary Socialist Party two.

Counting will be held on March 1.

The term of the present assembly in Himachal Pradesh is due to expire on March 11, Meghalaya on March 8 and Nagaland and Tripura on March 22.

With inputs from Pankaj Upadhyaya in Shimla

(c) Copyright 2003 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.

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