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Over 65% voter turnout in four states

Pankaj Upadhyaya in Shimla and agencies | February 26, 2003 21:14 IST

More than 65 per cent of the 8.31 million voters cast their ballot for electing a new legislature in Himachal Pradesh, Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland on Wednesday.

But election officials said the final figures would be released only later during the night. They said the figures might differ a "little bit" but not "substantially" from the present figures available.

The voter turnout in Himachal Pradesh was dull to begin with, as extreme cold and the marriage season played a part, but it picked up later in the day. Rajinder Rajan, deputy director of information and public relations told rediff.com that voter turnout was a mere 11 percent till 1100 hours but shot up to 65 percent by the time polling ended at 1700 hours.

Kulu district recorded the highest voter turnout of 74 per cent, while Bilaspur and Chamba recorded 65-70 per cent, election officials said.

Solan saw 68 per cent of the voters exercising their franchise, while Hamirpur and Mandi followed closely behind with a 67 and 66 per cent voter turnout respectively. Sirmour, Una and Kangra each recorded 65 per cent of voters coming to the polling booths.

Capital Shimla lagged in comparison with only 62.6 per cent of the voters turning up to cast their ballot.

Upper Himachal Pradesh, which is called the apple country, has traditionally been a Congress stronghold, while the lower Himachal Pradesh, which is also called the mango country, has been a Bharatiya Janata Party bastion.

The comparatively lower voter turnout in Shimla, Sirmour and Solan might cause some concern in the Congress circles. But the party may take comfort from the many who interpret the higher voter turnout in Kangra, Kulu and Chamba as indicative of an anti-incumbency wave against the Prem Kumar Dhumal government.

There was widespread enthusiasm seen among the people. A 114-year-old woman, Mathru, from Saproon polling station in Solan constituency was the oldest to cast her vote. A close contender was 103-year-old Gulabi Devi, who cast her vote in the Mandi Sadar constituency.

The election, however, was not without its share of oddities. Officials told rediff.com that voters in 268 villages in Moin segment of Aani assembly constituency refused to vote protesting against candidates who did not honour promises to construct a bridge and a primary school in the area.

Many villages in the Kothi Kukkar area also registered zero voting. Their reasons for not voting however were not known, officials said.

State Chief Electoral Officer Manisha Nanda said polling was peaceful. A press release issued by the department of information and public relations stated the polling was conducted in a "peaceful atmosphere".

Among the constituencies, Bamsan, from where Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal is contesting, recorded a high voter turnout of 73 per cent.

Kumarsain, from where Pradesh Congress Committee chief Vidya Stokes is fighting, recorded 64 per cent voter turnout, while Rohra, where former chief minister Virbhadra Singh is in the fray, saw a turnout of 69 per cent.

Mandi, which is the stronghold of Sukh Ram, saw 66 per cent of the electorate turn up at the polling booths.

In Tripura an estimated 72 per cent polling was recorded followed by 70 per cent in Nagaland, the Election Commission said. Meghalaya witnessed 68 per cent voter turnout.

The EC said polling in the three northeastern states was peaceful but for some stray incidents of violence in Nagaland.

Five Electronic Voting Machines were destroyed by a mob in Lakuti village in Nagaland's Wokha district, while in Zunheboto district the polling parties of polling station 15 and 16 were ambushed by miscreants on their way back to camps from election duty, it said. There were complaints of intimidation of voters from many parts of the state and they are being "looked into by the central observers, an EC statement said.

Though there are seven national and three regional political parties in fray, the main battle for the 60-member Nagaland assembly is confined between the ruling Congress and the newly-formed Democratic Alliance of Nagaland, with Nagaland People's Front and the Bharatiya Janata Party being two of its major constituents.

Ten polling stations in Twensang district registered 100 per cent turnout, while urban areas reported an average of 50 per cent.

In insurgency-prone Tripura all the polling parties were safe, the EC said. The Congress complained of poll irregularities by ruling CPI-M activists in West Tripura district with AICC observer Wasim Ahmad shooting off a letter to the state election commission. As many as 225 candidates are in fray for the 60-member assembly.

On the byelections to seven assembly constituencies in six states, the Commission said Humnabad in Karnataka recorded the highest 68 per cent polling, followed by Ratabari (Assam) 65 per cent, Bhokarden (Maharashtra) 62 per cent, Sattankulam (Tamil Nadu) and Gauriganj (Uttar Pradesh) 55 per cent each. Haidergarh (Uttar Pradesh) recorded 54 per cent and Pampore (Jammu and Kashmir) 40 per cent.

Meanwhile, the Congress complained to the EC about capture and rigging in some booths in the Gauriganj constituency, allegedly by the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party activists. In a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh, All India Congress Committee general secretary Oscar Fernandes wanted the EC to "immediately look into the matter and take immediate action".

He also told the Commission that the party had received reports from Sultanpur that some anti-social elements were "terrorising voters" in a part of the constituency.

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Number of User Comments: 2

Sub: High voter turnout in four states

Ha... How ironic!!! While the mainstream states play truant with their habituated dirty politics and drag the country down, the fringed ones are showing keener ...

Posted by narayanan

Sub: Less Voter Turnout - Indicator to Political parties.

It has been observed from the time of Independence, that every election has witnessed lesser turnout of voters than the previous elections. Probably it was ...

Posted by Sreeram


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