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45 pc polling for final phase of UP elections
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May 08, 2007 09:01 IST
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 20:21 IST

Uttar Pradesh's first "violence-free" and the country's biggest state election exercise spread over an unprecedented month-long period came to an end on Tuesday.

Even though only about 45.9 per cent of the 11.4 crore voters exercised their franchise to elect 402 representatives out of a whopping 6,070 contestants in the fray, it was considered no mean task by any standards.

As many as 1.20 lakh electronic voting machines were installed across 402 of the 403 Assembly constituencies in what was India's most populous state.

Election was countermanded in Khaga constituency on account of the death of a candidate in a road accident. Polling would now be held there on May 24.

"It is a major task accomplished," quipped UP's Chief Electoral Officer Anuj Kumar Bishnoi.

"It involved tremendous effort by our entire team, clearly unmatched anywhere else in the country so far," he said while adding emphatically, "but the effort was worth it."

Describing it as "the first violence-free election in the recent decades," he said, "even in terms of voters involved, area covered, manpower engagement as well as all other parameters, this was the most gigantic electoral exercise in any Indian state so far."

Even though the overall voter turnout remained low at just about 45.9 per cent, officials attribute it to the enforcement of the rule of law and the tightening of the screws on "bogus voting" that was rampant in the state over the past.

"While voting in most places was only marginally lower than that of the previous elections, we have reason to believe that it was the strict enforcement of laws that resulted in low polling as it prevented bogus voting that was a widely known menace in the past," Bishnoi sought to point out.

"What we have clearly achieved in this poll was ensuring fearless voting that had earlier remained a distant dream," he said. "And I can say quite affirmatively that a large chunk of poor, downtrodden and oppressed people got a rare opportunity to cast their vote without any fear," he added.

Asked to comment on complaints about "missing" names from the voters' lists, he said, "Well, the extent of such complaints was negligible and would not be running more than a few thousands in a total voter strength of 11.4 crore; still, we have taken up those cases and would make every possible effort to remove even this grouse of the people."

Apart from extensive deployment of Central forces, it was also the appointment of independent special observers in each of the districts, besides additional observers in the vulnerable and infamous constituencies that kept mischief mongers at bay, said Bishnoi .

Significantly, a total of about 4.80 lakh officials were engaged in the month-long mega exercise. Besides some 1.25 lakh policemen, including about 67,000 personnel belonging to the Central paramilitary forces were deployed in each phase of the staggered election.

Contrary to speculations about a whopping expenditure in the process, poll officials claimed that the total budget was of the order of Rs 250 crore. That was not substantially higher than what the government spent at the last state election in UP in 2002.

Nearly 24,000 heavy vehicles, including buses and trucks besides some 10,000 light vehicles were engaged in transporting voting machines and other necessary equipment as well as manpower from one place to another over the month-long period.

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