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60 Rae Bareli polling booths to be videographed

George Iype in Rae Bareli | April 21, 2004 12:55 IST
Last Updated: April 21, 2004 17:44 IST

The Election Commission is all set to install video cameras in 60 polling stations across Rae Bareli, where Congress president Sonia Gandhi is a candidate.

It has also acceded to Sonia's daughter Priyanka Vadra's request and deputed an additional special observer to Rae Bareli.

Priyanka is overseeing her mother's election campaign even as the Congress leader jets around the country canvassing for the party.

Priyanka has remained full-time in Rae Bareli and the neighbouring Amethi constituency, from where her brother Rahul is in the fray.

The Congress party believes the Opposition will unleash violence in these two constituencies.

On Monday, Priyanka approached the Election Commission in New Delhi with a list of polling stations which, she said, were prone to violence.

The Congress believes Ashok Singh, the Samajwadi Party candidate from Rae Bareli, and his supporters will create trouble for the party. Congress workers allege that Singh's cousin and chief election manager Akhilesh Singh is a 'criminal' and 'habitual booth-capturer.'

"We want the Election Commission to take special precautions," says Captain Satish Sharma, a friend of the Gandhi family and the sitting MP from Rae Bareli who has since shifted to nearby Sultanpur.

"Akhilesh and his supporters have been threatening us," says local Congress leader Lalji Gopal. "They have destroyed our campaign material across the constituency. Priyanka moved the Election Commission because we fear the Samajwadi Party would indulge in violence on polling day. People are being threatened that they would be killed if they vote for Soniaiji."

Akhilesh Singh has a colourful past. The former Congress legislator from Rae Bareli is reportedly wanted in 28 cases, six of them for murder and attempted murder. He was expelled from the Congress party last year, after which he switched allegiance to the Samajwadi Party.

But Ashok Singh denies the allegations about his cousin. "The Congress is feeling uneasy in Rae Bareli because they are realising that Sonia Gandhi is going to lose," he says.

He wonders why the Election Commission is "pampering" Rae Bareli. "I don't understand why the polling stations here should be videographed. This is a constituency where there will be no poll violence from the Samajwadi Party. On the other hand, the Congress and BJP are capable of creating trouble here," he counters.

The BJP candidate from Rae Bareli, Girish Narayan Pandey, also says Congress fears are unfounded. "It is a publicity stunt. This means Sonia Gandhi will be defeated," he laughs.

An election official said there was nothing new about installing video cameras at polling stations. "We do it at all sensitive polling stations across the country to check booth capturing and record polling," he said.

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