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How they voted today
Sharat Pradhan in Rae Bareli | May 08, 2006 20:30 IST
As against 48.4 per cent in the last general elections in Rae Bareli in 2004, polling in Rae Bareli plumetted to just around 43 per cent on Monday.
The low turnout brought cheers in all opposition camps -- particularly the Samajwadi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party -- for whom defeat was a foregone conclusion against the formidable Congress president Sonia Gandhi.who was seeking re-election from here.
While they could see Sonia's undisputed win as the writing on the wall, what seemed to have enthused them was the possibility of a reduced victory margin on account of the low turnout of voters.
On the other hand, Congressmen had not lost hope that Sonia would continue to maintain her huge victory margin of about 250,000 votes she had in 2004.
Sonia's daughter and election agent Priyanka, told reporters, "I am sure, she will win with a thumping margin once again."
UP Congress chief Salman Khurshid wasof the view, "Soniaji got 58 per cent of the total votes polled in 2004; I am confident, she will still maintain her record as also her margin."
While some attributed the low turnout to the heat wave that was currently lashing large parts of Uttar Pradesh, others believe that the absence of any matching contestant against Sonia had led to the diminishing interest of the local population .
Priyanka, who was also her election agent, felt that there was yet another factor that led to the low turnout . "When people can see that there are no major opponents in the fray and there is hardly any contest, they lose interest and become complacent," Priyanka told reporters.
She also blamed faulty electronic voting machines for the poor polling. "Reports about defective polling machines and consequential interruptions in the polling had begun to pour in even from the first hour of polling," she said.
"The returning officer and other concerned officials were duly informed about the problem," she added.
Praising his brother Rahul for braving the summer heat to hold fort on behalf of their mother until the close of campaigning on Saturday evening, when he was told by the Election Commission to leave the constituency, she said, "Rahul always made it a point to tell voters to come out in large numbers."
Salman Khurshid does not rule out the possibility of a "deliberate design behind the such largescale problems with voting machines". He told this scribe over telephone from Lucknow, "With Mulayam Singh Yadav government, you cannot rule out any mischief and it needs to be probed how voting machines got faulty in such a big way."
Among the contestants , the only ones of some consequence belong to the ruling Samajwadi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party. While SP had fielded Raj Kumar Chaudhary, a political non-entity, BJP fielded its high profile former UP party chief Vinay Katiyar.
However,the common man in Rae Bareli sees very little possibility for any one of them to even save their security deposit.
"Sonia Gandhi will sweep this election hands down," remarked Ashok Tripathi ,a shopkeeper, who until yesterday was just another sworn BJP fan.
Even Ram Sewak, a vegetable seller could see a walk-over for Sonia Gandhi ."For us local residents of Rae Bareli, Sonia means the return of Indira Gandhi; the others will lose theoir deposit," he predicted.
A total of 70 per cent of the 81.76 lakh electorate on Monday voted peacefully in 49 assembly seats spread over six districts in the fifth and last phase of the West Bengal assembly elections.
Darjeeling district recorded 75 per cent polling, Coochbehar 70 per cent, Malda 70 per cent, Jalpaiguri 74 per cent, Utar Dinajpur 63 per cent and Dakshin Dinajpur 68 per cent, according to election department sources.
The phase would decide the fates of the 306 candidates, including seven Left Front ministers -- Asoke Bhattacharya,
There were long queues of voters before in all the six districts at the scheduled end of polling at 5 pm.
Congress and Forward Bloc workers clashed in front of a booth in Jaigao in Goalpukhar constituency in North Dinajpur, where Information and Broadcasting minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi's wife, Deepa, is the Congress candidate.
Paramilitary forces posted there brought the situation under control, District Magistrate Manish Jain said.
In Jalpaiguri, an RSP polling agent, Moloy Ghosh was arrested for entering a booth in Madarihat without a proper appointment letter, Superintendent of Police, Rahul Srivastava said.
The presiding officer was also removed, the district magistrate said.
In Coochbehar, the presiding officer at a booth in Sadar Government High School fell ill during polling and had to be hospitalised. Polling however, continued.
Braving the scorching heat, some 55 per cent of 1.21 lakh voters on Monday cast their ballots for Deeg Assembly bye-election amid tight security even as the Election Commission hauled up a minister for using a red beacon while campaigning.
Polling was by and large incident-free and there were no reports of rigging or booth capturing from any of the 105 polling booths, Bharatpur Superintendent of Police Anand Srivastava, camping in the constituency, said.
The political fortunes of eight candidates including Divya Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Lakshman Singh of Congress were sealed in the electronic voting machines that would be opened on May 11 for counting at the district headquarters Bharatpur, an election official said.
An estimated 55 to 60 per cent of the 4.63 crore electorate in Tamil Nadu on Monday cast their votes in one of the most bitterly fought elections to the state assembly, when polling ended at 1700 hours.
Police said voters, who were still in the queue when the deadline ended, were allowed to exercise their franchise.
The polling was practically incident-free and by and large peaceful, police said.
Chennai city, which accounts for 14 of the 234 seats in the state assembly, reported 60 to 62 per cent polling.
In some places, there was a delay in the start of polling as EVMs did not function properly.
But they were set right.
In Andipatti, where Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is seeking re-election, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam candidate T Seeman was allegedly attacked by All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam men when he questioned them over voting on behalf of an old woman.
He contended that only polling officials had the right to do so and booth agents had no business to go near the EVM.
When he protested by thumping the table in which the EVM was placed, it fell down and broke, reports reaching Chennai said. In many places, voters had to go back disappointed as their names were not in the electoral rolls.
A large 81 per cent turn of voters marked legislative elections in Pondicherry as voting took place in 27 constituencies.
The Congress party is contesting 16 seats while its partner the DMK is contesting 11 seats.
The AIADMK is contesting 18 seats while the BJP has fielded 27 candidates.
In the last assembly elections in 2001, the Congress won 11 seats, the DMK seven and the AIADMK took three seats.
With PTI and UNI inputs