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February 21, 2000


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Assembly polls come into last lap

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One hundred and eight assembly seats in Bihar, 90 in Haryana, 77 in Orissa and 32 in Manipur will go to the polls on Tuesday, with an electorate of over 40 million exercising their franchise.

Violence having claimed 33 lives in the first two phases of elections for the 324-member assembly in Bihar, paramilitary forces staged a flag march on Monday in sensitive pockets near the Nepal and the Bangladesh borders. Shoot-at-sight orders were also issued to prevent booth-capturing.

About 400 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed to man the 26,847 polling booths, along with the state police, the Bihar Military Police and the Home Guards.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee addressed a string of meetings at Saharsa, Darbhanga and Muzaffarpur on the penultimate day of the campaign, while Congress President Sonia Gandhi, central ministers L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Pramod Mahajan, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Kanshi Ram, Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member Sitaram Yechuri, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav and state chief minister Rabri Devi were among others who addressed election meetings.

Campaigning had ended on a frayed note with Civil Aviation Minister and Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav and JD (U) MP from Rosera constituency Ramchandra Paswan being injured when activists of the ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal attacked their chopper yesterday. Supporters of an independent candidate also threatened Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Chandramukhi Devi with dire consequences.

Among the candidates whose fate is to be decided in the last phase are Bihar People's Party leader and National Democratic Alliance candidate Lovely Anand (Saharsa), former Union minister and RJD nominee Taslimuddin (Kishanganj), brother-in-law of Laloo Prasad Yadav and RJD candidate Anirudh Prasad alias Saddhu Yadav (Gopalganj), state Finance Minister Shanker Prasad Tekriwal (Saharsa), state Tourism Minister Ashok Kumar Singh (Sonbarsa), sitting CPI-M member Madhvi Sarkar and a host of state ministers.

according to sources in the state election office, 1326 candidates were in the fray, with national parties fielding 401 candidates, state parties 132 and non-recognised parties 254.

Of the total candidates, 539 were independents and 57 were women. Some candidates with criminal records were in the fray in the Champaran area. Most of them are independents.

Altogether 1,98,31,846 people are eligible to vote in the 108 constituencies, all in north bihar. More than 60 per cent of the booths had been identified as either sensitive or hyper-sensitive.

The Nepal and Bangladesh borders had been sealed, while special vigilance is to be maintained near the Uttar Pradesh-Bihar and Bihar-West Bengal borders, official sources said.

Voters in half the 90 constituencies in Haryana will exercise their franchise electronically for the first time in the one-day assembly elections tomorrow.

Elaborate security arrangements are in place in all the 15,451 polling booths in the state. About 50,000 security personnel, including 50 companies of paramilitary forces, 30,000 personnel of the state police and 18,000 Home Guards have been deployed to ensure a free and fair poll, said Haryana Chief Electoral Officer Bhaskar Chatterjee.

An electorate of more than 11.1 million is to decide the fate of 965 aspirants to the tenth Haryana legislative assembly. The main fight is between the Indian National Lok Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance and the Congress.

Electronic Voting Machines are being used for the first time in the assembly elections in the state. The EVMS were used in Karnal and Rohtak parliamentary constituencies during the Lok Sabha polls last year.

About 1,500 national cadet corps and 700 forest guards will also be put on poll duty, Chatterjee said.

Over 70,000 officials will conduct the polls while 30 observers picked by the Election Commission will oversee the process.

The EC has made it mandatory for all voters who have been issued photo identity cards to produce them; others have to produce documentary proof of their identity, election officials said.

Both the Congress and the INLD-BJP are contesting all the 90 seats. The INLD is contesting 61 and the BJP, 29. The Congress has fielded candidates in all the 90 seats while the Bahujan Samaj party is contesting 83 seats and the Haryana Vikas Party headed by former chief minister Bansi Lal, 62.

Chief Minister and INLD chief Om Parkash Chautala is contesting from Rori and Narwana constituencies. Other prominent candidates include speaker Ashok Kumar Arora, former chief ministers Bhajan Lal (Congress) and Bansi Lal (HVP), state Congress president Bhupinder Singh Hooda, former Congress presidents Birender Singh, Harpal Singh and Dharampal Singh Malik, Finance Minister Sampat Singh, Town and Country Planning Minister Dhir Pal Singh and Co-operation Minister Kartar Singh Bhadana (all INLD).

The polling in 77 assembly constituencies in coastal Orissa is being held in areas where people are yet to recover from the trauma of the cyclonic storm that claimed 10,000 lives and rendered hundreds of people homeless.

The first round of polling in 70 assembly seats was held on February 17.

The second phase election would decide the fate of the presidents of four political parties besides many senior state politicians. These are BJP president Naveen Patnaik (Hinjli), Orissa Pradesh Congress Committee president J B Patnaik (Athagarh), BJP state unit president Manmohan Samal (Dhamnagar) and Janata Dal (S) chief Ashok Das (Korie).

Altogether 12,974,233 voters, including 6,723,038 males and 6,251,185 females, will exercise their franchise in 16,091 booths spread over 12 districts of the state to decide the fate of 484 candidates. There are a large number of rebels from all three major political parties -- the ruling Congress, the BJP and the Biju Janata Dal.

The electoral fortunes of 14 council ministers of the Hemananda Biswal government, Orissa assembly speaker C D Samantra, deputy speaker B B Singh Mardaraj, former speaker Yudhistir Das and BJP state legislature party leader Biswa Bhusan Harichandan will be sealed tomorrow.

Fifty-five companies of paramilitary forces, 70 platoons of Orissa state armed police forces and more than 22,000 state police personnel have been deployed in view of the sensitiveness of the areas going to polls in the final phase.

The fate of 196 candidates will be decided in 32 constituencies in Manipur amidst fears of disturbances following imposition of 'curfew' by the All Manipur Students' Union on the polling day.

Chief Minister W Nipamacha Singh, 14 members of his council of ministers and assembly speaker K Babudhon Singh are seeking re-elections in the second phase.

Two former chief ministers R K Dorendra Singh (BJP) and R K Ranbir Singh, Communist Party of India state secretary P Parijat, Manipur's People's Party president O Joy Singh and BJP state president H Bhubon Singh are also trying their luck in the elections on Tuesday.

Polling will be held under tight security since the elections were disrupted in as many as 101 polling stations on February 12.

Official sources said that polling personnel had moved to interior areas while all preparations were complete to conduct polls in urban polling stations.

Altogether 911 polling booths will be set up for a total electorate of 681,687. Election authorities have identified 112 booths as hypersensitive, 306 as sensitive and 493 as normal.

In the lacklustre campaign hampered by a two-day AMSU-sponsored general strike, none of the top brass of any national party joined the electioneering although these parties together fielded 96 candidates. The Samata Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal too are contesting 15 and two seats respectively.

The Revolutionary Socialist Party has nominated four candidates while major regional parties MPP, the Manipur State Congress Party and the Federal Party of Manipur will contest 19, 32 and 18 seats respectively.

Except for Yaiskul, where former chief minister R K Dorendra Singh is locked in a straight contest with Revenue Minister E Kunjeswar Singh, all other constituencies will witness multi-cornered contests.

Chief Minister Nipamacha Singh is seeking re-election from Wangoi where he is challenged by four others, while speaker K Babudhon Singh faces a five-cornered fight at Langthabal where MPP chief O Joy Singh is also a candidate.


Assembly Election 2000

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