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November 24, 1998


All set for E-Day

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More than 83 million voters go to the polls tomorrow to elect 626 members of the Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Mizoram and Delhi assemblies.

Strict security arrangements have been made to ensure a peaceful poll.

By-elections are being held simultaneously to the Broach Lok Sabha seat in Gujarat and 12 assembly seats in six states.

Polling will take place in all 320 constituencies in Madhya Pradesh, 40 in Mizoram, 197 of 200 in Rajasthan, and 69 of 70 in Delhi.

Polling in four constituencies -- three in Rajasthan and one in Delhi -- has been postponed owing to the deaths of candidates.

Counting will be taken up on Saturday, November 28, and the election process is to be completed by December 4.

For the first time, electronic voting machines will be used in 16 constituencies -- six in Delhi and five each in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Tomorrow's polling will decide the fate of the chief ministers of the four states -- Bhairon Singh Shekhawat (Rajasthan), Digvijay Singh (MP), Sushma Swaraj (Delhi), and Lal Thanhawla (Mizoram) -- besides several former chief ministers and important politicians.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress are in a virtual one-to-one contest in all the states except Mizoram where the BJP's presence is negligible.

The assembly by-elections are being held in Barnipur, Nandanpur and Mayureswar in West Bengal, Agra East in Uttar Pradesh, Adampur in Punjab, Baijnath in Himachal Pradesh, Udharbund and Bhabanipur in Assam, and Aadarpur, Sheohar, Purnea and Koderma in Bihar.

One seat -- Mongoia in Mokokchung district of Nagaland -- was filled without a contest. Congress candidate A Aolepden was declared elected unopposed on the last day for withdrawal of nominations.

Madhya Pradesh: The ten-hour polling will be held from 7am to 5pm IST at 56,835 polling stations. About 44.7 million voters will decide the fate of 2,510 candidates.

This is the first time that the country's biggest state is going to the polls on one day. Earlier, polling was held in two phases.

More than 35,000 jawans of the state armed police and central paramilitary forces, besides 26,000 Home Guards, including 10,000 from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Maharashtra, have been deployed to ensure peaceful polling.

The borders with Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra have been sealed to prevent the entry of anti-social elements.

Special measures have been taken in Naxalite-affected areas in the wake of the election boycott call given by the extremists. Police arrested 12 members of a sangham trained by Naxalites at Bhav village in Khairagarh constituency today as part of the preventive arrests.

Besides Chief Minister Singh (Raghogarh), other prominent Congress candidates are former Gujarat governor Krishna Pal Singh (Sohagpur), former chief minister Shyama Charan Shukla (Rajim), Speaker Srinivas Tiwari (Mangawa), Deputy Chief Minister Subhash Yadav (Kasrawad), state congress president Urmila Singh (Ghansaur), and former Union minister Arjun Singh's son Rahul Singh (Churhat).

The BJP candidates include former chief ministers Sunderlal Patwa (Bhojpur) and Kailash Joshi (Bagli), Leader of the Opposition Vikram Verma (Dhar), state BJP president Nand Kumar Sai, and Vijayaraje Scindia's daughter Yashodhara (Shivpuri).

Former chief minister Virendra Kumar Sakhlecha, who quit the BJP on being denied a ticket, is contesting as an independent in Jawad.

Though there are 39 political parties in the fray, the real battle is between the Congress and the BJP which have put up candidates for 318 and 319 seats, respectively. The Congress has left two seats to the Republican Party of India (Gavai), while an RPI (Khobragade) candidate is contesting on the BJP symbol.

The Bahujan Samaj Party is contesting 170 seats, Janata Dal 144, Janata Party 14, Samata Party 41, Communist Party of India 34, CPI-Marxist 11, RPI (19), RPI-K three, Shiv Sena 66, Samajwadi Party 94, Ajaya Bharat Party 78 and others 307.

Besides, there are 893 independents, including 110 rebels of the Congress and the BJP.

Rajasthan: More than 29.6 million voters will cast their ballots in 40,200 booths to decide the fate of 1,422 candidates.

Three mobile polling booths on camel carts have been set up in the desert district of Barmer in view of long distances and thin population.

Electronic voting machines will be used in five constituencies -- three in Jaipur district and two in Ajmer.

Polling in three constituencies -- Mundwa (Nagaur), Kumbhalgarh, and Bhim -- has been postponed owing to the deaths of candidates.

About 78,000 personnel of the Rajasthan police have been drafted for election duty. In addition, 148 companies of central paramilitary forces and the police forces of Gujarat and Haryana have been deployed. The Indo-Pak border has been sealed.

Prominent candidates include Chief Minister Shekhawat (Bali), former Union minister Nawal Kishore Sharma (Jaipur Rural), Leader of the Opposition Parasram Maderna (Bhopalgarh), Deputy Chief Minister Hari Shankar Bhabhra (Ratangarh), former chief minister Shiv Charan Mathur (Mandalgarh), and Speaker Smarath Lal Meena (Rajgarh).

Besides, former chief minister Jagannath Pahadia's wife Shanti (Weir-SC), former Union minister Rajesh Pilot's wife Rama (Hindoli) and former Union minister Abrar Ahmed's wife Yasim (Sawai Madhopur) are also trying to enter the assembly.

Delhi: About 8.3 million voters will elect 69 representatives, from among 815 aspirants, to the 70-member assembly.

Polling in Nangloi Jat constituency, where Transport Minister Devender Singh Shoukin is a candidate, was postponed following the murder of Samata Party candidate Ved Singh.

Delhi's borders with all neighbouring states have been sealed, while police have cracked down on more than 1,500 criminals and deployed 40,736 personnel.

Police have been equipped with 1,404 additional wireless sets, while 8,000 Home Guard personnel will man polling stations. About 80 illegal weapons have been seized and 208 surrendered.

About 180 of the 9,128 polling stations have been identified as sensitive.

Chief Minister Swaraj, facing Kiran Walia of the Congress in an eight-cornered contest in Hauz Khas, and Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president Shiela Dixit, contesting against former Test cricketer and present MLA Kirti Azad of the BJP, are among the important candidates.

While the Congress is contesting all 70 seats, the ruling BJP has fielded candidates in 67, leaving three to its ally, the Rashtriya Lok Dal of former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala.

The Bahujan Samaj Party and the Janata Dal are also contesting most of the seats.

Electronic voting machines will be used in Sarojini Nagar, Gole Market, Minto Road, Kasturba Nagar, Jangpura and Delhi Cantonment.

Mizoram: An estimated 450,000 voters will cast the ballot in 814 booths to elect 40 legislators.

A total of 9,000 police personnel have been deployed in the eight districts of the state. Police have identified 68 polling stations as sensitive.

It is going to be a triangular contest between the ruling Congress, the Mizo National Front-Mizoram People's Conference combine, and the United People's Party. The Congress is contesting all 40 seats, the MPC 29, MNF 28, and UPP 38.

Some important contestants are Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, former chief minister and MPC chief Brig Thenphunga Sailo, MNF president Zoramthanga and UPP chairman H Lallungmuana, MP.

Brig Sailo, who was an ally of Lal Thanhawla in 1993, is seeking to make a comeback to state politics by contesting the Mamit seat. His rival is Public Health Engineering Minister Lalhuthanga (Congress).

MNF president Zoramthanga is seeking re-election from Champhai. He is also contesting Khawbung where his rival is the present MLA and state Janata Dal president Hrangthanga Colney.

Dr Lallungmuana is pitted against Sports Minister John Retluangliana (Congress) and H Vanlalauva (MNF) in Aizawl East II constituency.


Assembly Election '98

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