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October 1, 1999


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Fifth phase: Get ready for some of the biggest electoral battles

The curtain fell on the campaign today for the 13th general elections for all but seven constituencies. The hustle and bustle of the campaign for 118 Lok Sabha constituencies in ten states and one Union Territory going to the polls on October 3 in the fifth phase ended this evening.

An electorate of 133 million will decide the fate of 1,080 candidates, including such stalwarts as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (Lucknow), Congress president Sonia Gandhi (Amethi), Bahujan Saamaj Party vice-president Mayawati (Akbarpur) and Janata Dal (united) president Sharad Yadav and Rashtriya Janata Dal president Laloo Prasad Yadav (both Madhepura).

The fifth phase will cover all the 42 constituencies in West Bengal, 31 in UP, 12 in Bihar, 13 in Assam, one in Andhra Pradesh, two in Arunachal Pradesh, two in Madhya Pradesh, 11 in Orissa, one in Sikkim, two in Tripura and one in the Union Territory Lakshadweep.

Polling will also be held on October 3 for the 32-member Sikkim assembly, 60-member Arunachal Pradesh assembly, seven assembly segments in Andhra Pradesh and five in Karnataka. Arunachal Chief Minister Mukut Mithi and three other Congress nominees have already been declared elected unopposed to the 60-member house.

A brief profile of some of key states and the lone union territory going to the polls on October 3:

UTTAR PRADESH: In Uttar Pradesh the fate of 462 candidates will be decided by 3,77,80,363 voters spread across 45,000 polling stations in 27 districts.

Out of 31 Lok Sabha seats going to the polls in the third phase here, the Bhartiya Janata Party had won 15 in 1998 elections and the Samajwadi Party had won nine. The BSP had won four, the Samata Party two and the Samajwadi Janata Party one.

The 31 constituencies which are going to the polls are: Sitapur, Misrikh (reserved) , Lucknow, Mohanlalganj (reserved) , Amethi, Sultanpur, Faizabad, Barabanki, Akbarpur (reserved) , Kaiserganj, Bahraich, Balrampur, Gonda, Basti (reserved) , Doomariaganj, Khalilabad, Bansgaon (reserved) , Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Padrauna, Deoria, Salempur, Ballia, Ghosi, Azamgarh, Lalganj (reserved) , Macchlishahr, Jaunpur, Saidpur (reserved) and Ghazipur. The electronic voting machines, which made their debut in the state in this election, will be used only in Lucknow.

BIHAR: It was a low-key campaign in the flood-affected twelve constituencies in Bihar. More than 14 million voters will exercise their franchise in over 19,000 polling booths out of which more than 60 per cent have been identified as sensitive or hyper-sensitive.

Altogether 98 candidates are in the fray in Bihar. The Election Commission has postponed polling to October 28 in four Lok Sabha constituencies of Purnia, Bhagalpur, Rajmahal (ST) and Khagaria in the state following inundation of polling stations in these constituencies. Polling in two assembly segments under Kathihar Lok Sabha seat will also be held on October 28 in view of the worsening flood situation.

Prominent candidates in the fray in Bihar include high-profile Janata Dal (united) president Sharad Yadav and Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Laloo Prasad Yadav (both Madhepura), former union minister Digvijay Singh (Banka), Mohammad Taslimuddin (Kishanganj), Devendra Prasad Yadav (Jhanjharpur), Bihar Peoples Party chief Anand Mohan (Sheohar), Nationalist Congress Party general secretary, Tariq Anwar (Katihar) and younger brother of former union minister Ramvilas Paswan, Ramchandra Paswan (Rosera).

The 12 constituencies going to the polls are Sitamarhi, Deohar, Madhubani, Jhanjharpur, Rosera (SC), Samastipur, Saharsa, Madhepura, Araria (sc), Kishanganj, Katihar and Banka. Of these seven constituencies - Sheohar, Madhubani, Jhanjharpur, Saharsa, Madhepura, Kishanganj and Banka -- have been identified as super-sensitive by the Election Commission.

Katihar constituency has the highest number of fourteen candidates, while Saharsa has the lowest of five.

The state government has made adequate security arrangements to ensuring free and fair polls. The Election Commission has taken stringent measures following killing of at least 55 people, including more than 20 security personnel, in the first two phase of elections in the state covering 38 constituencies.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (United) have demanded appointment of central observers in all the six assembly segments in Madhepura where two political stalwarts - former chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav and Janata Dal (united) president Sharad Yadav are pitted against each other.

ASSAM: Amid fear and apprehension the campaigning in Assam ended today even as the spectre of insurgency related violence continued to loom large in most parts. The United Liberation Front of Asom has declared a poll boycott.

In all, there are 115 candidates in the fray and only 14 of them will be able to make it to the Parliament. The Congress, which played a dominant role in the state with 11 seats in the last Lok Sabha,, is fighting a defensive battle this time. The BJP is on the offensive and looks determined to open its account in the Brahmaputra valley.

Unlike last year when the ULFA threat was at its peak, the campaigning was quite colourful this time.

Though the Congress is confident of retaining all its 11 seats, political observers give the party seven to eight.

The Nationalist Congress Party has emerged as a major headache for the Congress with the rebel Congressmen gathering more strength than anticipated. The Congress faces a serious threat from the NCP in Lakhimpur, Nagaon and Barpeta constituencies.

ORISSA: About 13 million voters spread across coastal and southern Orissa in 11 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats will exercise their franchise on October 3.

The 11 constituencies are Mayurbhanj (ST), Balesore, Bhadrak (SC), Jajpur (SC), Kendrapada, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Puri, Bhubaneswar, Aska and Berhampur.

Prominent among those whose fate would be sealed in the ballots boxes on October 3 are Biju Janata Dal president and union steel and mines minister Naveen Patnaik (Aska), former Orissa chief minister J B Patnaik's wife Jayanti Patnaik (Berhampur), state panchayat raj minister K C Lenka (cuttack) ,former cricketer Ranjib Biswal (Jagatsinghpur) and editor-turned- politician Bhartruhar Mahatab (cuttack).

In the 1998 Lok Sabha election the BJP-BJD combine had won eight of the eleven seats leaving the Congress with three. This time all eleven constituencies will witness multi-cornered contests, though the main battle would be between the Congress and the BJP-BJD combine.

While the BJP-BJD combine is contesting all the eleven seats (BJP-3, BJD-8), the Congress is contesting ten seats and has left Aska to the CPI.

ARUNACHAL PRADESH: In Arunachal Pradesh 6,09,174 voters, including 2,89,911 women, will exercise their franchise to elect two representatives to the Lok Sabha and 56 legislators to the state assembly.

Six candidates, three in each constituency, are in the fray for the two Lok Sabha seats, while 168 are trying their luck from 56 assembly seats. Four Congress nominees, including Chief Minister Mukut Mithi have been elected to the state assembly unopposed.

Others who have been elected unopposed are: Planning Minister Thupten Tempa, Irrigation and Flood Control Minister T L Rajkumar and and former MLA Rajesh Tacho .

Though the campaigning remained dull throughout in Arunachal, political parties did arrang some rallies, street corner meetings and door-to-door campaign to woo the voters.

SIKKIM:Some 2,55,253 voters., including 1,22,752 women are eligible to exercise their franchise in the simultaneous polls to one Lok Sabha seat and 32 assembly seats in Sikkim.

I all, 109 candidates, including four for the lone Lok Sabha seat, are in the fray. All the four major political parties in this Himalayan state, including the two regional outfits - the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front, the opposition Sikkim Sangram Parishad - have fielded candidates for all the seats.

Prominent candidates in the fray here are: Chief Minister and SDF chief, Pawan Chamling , who is seeking relection for a fifth consecutive term from his home constituency of Damthang in east Sikkim. Former chief minister and opposition SSP chief, Nar Bahadur Bhandari, is contesting from two seats this time. Former Congress chief minister and AICC member Sanchaman Limboo is contesting the Yoksum seat in west Sikkim, from where he lost in 1994.

LAKSHADWEEP: Deputy speaker in the dissolved Lok Sabha P M Sayeed is locked in a four-cornered contest in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep. If he gets elected it would be his tenth consecutive win.

He is pitted against candidates of the rival Janata Dals -- K P Muthu Koya of the Janata Dal (united) and F K Hussain of the Janata Dal (secular). The fourth in the fray is an independent.

MADHYA PRADESH: In Hoshangabad and Vidisha Lok Sabha constituencies of Madhya Pradesh, where polling was adjourned twice due to floods, as many as 23,25,144 voters, including more than 1.78 million women, will decide the fate of twelve candidates.

BJP vice-president Sunderlal Patwa is locked in a tough contest against a former minister Rajkumar Patel (Cong) in Hoshangabad,, while state BJP secretary, Shiv Raj Singh Chouhan and a former Congress minister Jaswant Singh are testing their luck from Vidisha.


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