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Curb on rigging = low turnout: EC
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow | April 13, 2007 23:17 IST
Fear of the paramilitary forces is believed to have kept goons at bay during the second phase of state assembly elections in 58 Assembly constituencies spread across 10 districts of western Uttar Pradesh on Friday.
Authorities as well as the common people of the area attribute the incident-free and fair poll to the overriding visibility of the 'no-nonsense' central paramilitary forces across the 10 vulnerable districts of Aligarh, Meerut, Mathura, Ghaziabad, Gautambudh Nagar (Noida), Muzaffarnagar, Bulandshahr, Saharanpur, Hathras and Baghpat, largely in the vicinity of national capital, New Delhi.
"Western UP was notorious for use of muscle-power to deprive a large chunk of genuine voters from exercising their franchise; perhaps this was the first time that this particular class could vote without fear," a top election official told rediff.com.
According to him, "Any UP election in the past was usually preceded and succeeded by large number of arrests; this time there was this lone case of arrest of a man who was caught carrying as many as 91 voters' identity cards in Meerut."
The man belonged to United Democratic Front a recently floated political outfit headed by Haji Yaqub Quraishi, party-hopper turned UP minister who was better known as the man who declared a Rs 51 crore bounty on the head of the Danish cartoonist who drew blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Mohammad.
As many as 1.64 crore voters, including about 74 lakh women, will exercise their right to franchise to elect 58 representatives in what is India's most populous state with as many as 403 Assembly seats. The seven-phase UP election concludes on May 8.
"Normally we would be flooded with complaints of booth-capturing, intimidation and even bloody violence, but there are hardly any complaints of such nature this time," Chief Election Officer A K Bishnoi said.
Asked if the 46 per cent turnout was not low, considering that the last election in 2002 has witnessed 52 per cent polling in this belt, Bishnoi quipped, "You should consider this a reflection of the effective curb on bogus voting."
He said, "We are strongly of the view that the election commission's strict vigil has prevented bogus voting, that was found to be a major menace in some of these areas over the past."
Besides the deployment of about 65,000 central paramilitary personnel across the highly vulnerable region, about 100 observers and micro-observers were crisscrossing the 10 districts, while deputy election commissioner Jai P Prakash was hopping from one place to another on his helicopter.
The administration even took care to keep a round-the-clock vigil on areas bordering certain districts of Haryana, from where infiltration of undesirable element and even clandestine import liquor was stated to be rampant in the past elections.
"We not only sealed all the roads and kept a watch on other possible infiltrations points but police teams were also detailed to maintain a round-the-clock patrolling along the Kosi and Yamuna rivers, which form the dividing line at some places," he added.