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Western UP polls lack enthusiasm
Manoj C G in Baghpat, Western UP | April 13, 2007 18:40 IST
Sixty-year-old Mohammad Iqbal has seen many a colourful election, but he found Friday's balloting in this western Uttar Pradesh township lacklustre -- thanks to the strict directives of the Election Commission.
Missing from action are posters carrying smiling faces of contestants exhorting people to vote and the crowds usually associated with campaigning. "Is baar election mein mazza nahin aaya (the elections this year lacked enthusiasm)," said Iqbal, who runs a biryani stall in this Muslim-dominated sugarcane belt of the state that went to polls in the second phase.
Baghpat is witnessing a multi-cornered fight with all the key players -- Samajwadi Party, BSP, BJP and Congress -- having put up candidates where a few independents are also trying their luck.
"The Election Commission was very strict with the poll guidelines this year taking away all the fun associated with the polls," said Rahman Khan, a college student, who was exercising his franchise for the first time. Long queues were seen at several polling booths in Noida, Ghaziabad and Baghpat in the morning, while people chose to stay indoors to escape the scorching heat of the afternoon sun.
Polling across the three regions was peaceful. Balloting picked up after 4 pm and over 50 people were seen waiting to exercise their franchise at the Primary School in Pali in Baghpat constituency even at 4.45 pm. Paramilitary forces were deployed at polling booths while local police maintained vigil in the surrounding areas.
Security arrangements were so tight that only voters with valid ID cards and media personnel carrying passes issued by the Election Commission were allowed inside polling stations.
Vimal Mishra, a resident of Shipra Sun City in Ghaziabad's Indirapuram, said she had difficulties in finding her name in the voters' list and it took almost an hour for her to vote after reaching the polling booth. "It took almost one hour for me to find my name in the list. Many of my neighbours returned home without casting their votes as they could not find their names in the jumbled list," she said.
Ghaziabad is witnessing a four-cornered contest with BJP fielding its sitting MLA Nawab Singh Nagar. While BSP has nominated Satbir Singh Gujjar for the seat, SP has fielded Ashok Chouhan and Congress Raghuraj Singh. Congress young turk Rahul Gandhi has campaigned for Singh on the last day of the campaigning. There are another 11 candidates trying their luck in the constituency. In Vijaynagar area of Ghaziabad, Prashant, a BJP worker, complained about the strict Election Commission guidelines that disallowed party activists to wear badges of party symbols anywhere near the polling booth.
"The tight security is proving to be a deterrent for voters, who have chosen to stay indoors. An eerie silence prevailed in Noida's Nithari village that was rocked by grisly serial killings of women and children. The usual humdrum associated with elections was missing in Nithari, though brisk polling was visible in other areas of Dadri constituency. Voters, mostly women, trickled into the polling booth set up barely 200 metres away from the D-5 "house of horror" of businessman Moninder Singh Pandher, where about 20 children and women were sexually assaulted and brutally murdered. Tight security was in place near the polling booth, the area which witnessed many an emotional scenes and pitched battles between angry locals and police.
Political leaders did not turn up here during the campaign in this "jinxed village" which has a reputation of "ensuring the unseating" of chief ministers who visit the area. Lal, a migrant labourer, said, "I have been living here for the past five years but I have no voter identity card." Long queues were visible outside polling stations in neighbouring Harola in Sector five of Noida. The voters were mostly women and labourers.
Campaigning had picked up just a couple of days before the polls with prominent leaders, including Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, RLD chief Ajit Singh, BJP leaders Kalyan Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu addressing public rallies across the region.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi also undertook a whirlwind tour of the region to campaign for the party which has a pre-poll tie up with Bahujan Kisan Dal, the political arm of Bhartiya Kisan Union led by Mahendra Singh Tikait. Congress' young turk Rahul Gandhi had also undertaken roadshows in the region to canvass for the party candidates.