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After high-voltage campaign, Rajasthan, Telangana to vote today

Last updated on: December 07, 2018 00:35 IST

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi being welcomed by Union Sports Minister Rajyawardhan Singh Rathore as BJP candidates look on, during an election rally ahead of the assembly polls, in Jaipur. Photograph: PTI Photo

After a high-voltage campaign that saw war of words among contending parties, Rajasthan and Telangana are set for assembly polls on Friday.

Over 2,000 candidates are in the fray for 199 assembly seats in Rajasthan, where polling on Friday will determine whether the Bharatiya Janata Party bucks anti-incumbency and an increasingly aggressive opposition to return to power.

In Telangana, the Congress-led alliance is challenging the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti, and the Bharatiya Janata Party seeking to make it a triangular contest.

More than 1.50 lakh polling officials including reserve staff are in the process of giving final touches on Thursday to make the election to the 119-member House a smooth affair.

Over 2.80 crore electorate are eligible to exercise their franchise in the state, which has a total of 32,815 polling stations across.

 

In Rajasthan, votes will be cast at 51,687 polling booths, 259 of them managed exclusively by women officials and security personnel.

It is a seen as a straight fight between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress for about 130 seats.

In other constituencies, groups like the Bahujan Samaj Party and rebels who are contesting against official party candidates may queer the pitch.

Vasundhara Raje hopes to return as the state's chief minister.

IMAGE: Congress president Rahul Gandhi with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu during a public meeting in Telangana. Photograph: PTI Photo

If the Congress wins, it is expected to pick between former chief minister Ashok Gehlot and state party president Sachin Pilot for the top post in the state.

In the current House, the BJP has 160 seats and the Congress 25.

Raje is contesting from Jhalrapatan constituency, considered her bastion.

This time she face BJP veteran Jaswant Singh's son Manvendra Singh who has defected to the Congress, complaining that his old party had hurt the pride of the Rajputs by ignoring his father in the last Lok Sabha election.

In Tonk, Sachin Pilot and Rajasthan Transport Minister and BJP candidate Yoonus Khan are face to face. Khan is the only Muslim candidate fielded by his party.

Ashok Gehlot is fighting for the Sardarpura seat.

The polling caps a hard-fought campaign between the Congress and the BJP.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed 12 major rallies and Congress president Rahul Gandhi nine in the state.

Both sides fielded their top leaders in the campaign.

Telangana and Rajasthan are the last states to go to the polls in the current round of assembly elections, which also covered Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram.

The counting for all states is on December 11.

Election officials said 2,274 candidates are contesting in Rajasthan which has 4.74 crore registered voters. About 1.44 lakh security personnel have been deployed for polling day.

The state assembly has 200 seats, but election in Alwar district's Ramgarh constituency has been put off due to the death of BSP candidate Laxman Singh.

"More than two lakh electronic voting machines (EVMs) and verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines will be used in the elections," chief electoral officer Anand Kumar said Thursday.

He said it was for the first time that VVPAT machines are being used in Rajasthan.

The BJP has fielded candidates for all 199 seats and the Congress for 194. For the five remaining seats, the Congress is in alliance with other parties. The BSP fielded 190 candidates, the Communist Party of India-Marxist 28 and the Communist Party of India 16.

Of the total 4,74, 37,761 registered voters, 2.27 crore are women and 20,20,156 are registered as first-time voters, Kumar told reporters.

IMAGE: Police personnel conduct a march in front of Hawa Mahal ahead of Rajasthan assembly elections, in Jaipur, on Thursday. Photograph: PTI Photo

In the run-up to the polling, the Election Commission received 3,784 complaints related to violation of code of conduct. Of them, 3,098 were found true, he said.

He said 13,182 booths are being called 'critical'.

'Micro observers' will be deployed at 4,982 booths, videographers at 3,948 and there will be webcasting from 3,138.

As many as 4,146 'vulnerable' villages have been identified. Central Reserve Police Force personnel will be stationed at 7,791 booths.

Nearly Rs 15 crore has been seized as unaccounted cash during the campaign period.

Liquor worth Rs 25 crore, drugs worth Rs 7.48 crore, gold and silver worth Rs 6.88 crore and vehicles worth Rs 11.89 crore were also seized.

Over 4,000 illegal arms were seized after the model code of conduct came into force last month.

Rajasthan Director General of Police O P Galhotra said foolproof security arrangements are in place.

In Telangana, additional DG (Law and order) Jitender on Thursday told PTI that about one lakh police personnel including 25,000 central paramilitary forces and 20,000 from other states are engaged in poll duties.

A senior police official said security was beefed up at bordering areas which were identified as Left Wing Extremist-affected regions.

The assembly polls in Telangana were originally scheduled to be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections next year, but the House was dissolved on September 6 as per a recommendation by the state cabinet.

It is to be seen if KCR's gamble to opt for early elections pays off.

The Congress has stitched together 'Prajakutami' (People's Front) along with the Telugu Desam Party, the Telangana Jana Samiti and the CPI to take on the ruling TRS, led by caretaker Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR).

The TRS, seeking a second term in office, is going alone, as also the BJP.

While KCR was without doubt the star campaigner for TRS, the Congress and the BJP fielded their bigwigs for campaigning which turned out to be a shrill one.

For the Congress, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the party President Rahul Gandhi addressed election rallies.

The BJP relied on Prime Minister Modi and the party president Amit Shah.

Gandhi also addressed a joint meetings with TDP chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.

"We will win 100 seats," KCR repeatedly said in campaign meetings.

Rahul Gandhi said Wednesday the Congress-led alliance is confident of winning the elections 'hands-down' and claimed that KCR was showing 'signs of nervousness and insecurity' in recent campaign meetings he addressed.

The BJP, which won five seats in alliance with the TDP in the last elections in 2014, said it ensured that there is a triangular fight in Telangana this time.

"Earlier, when the election season began, it was projected by both the Congress and TRS as if the fight is between them but it was a propaganda," Telangana BJP spokesperson Krishna Saagar Rao told PTI.

Vigorous campaign by BJP's national and state leaders ensured that it has become a 'triangular contest where nobody can actually say who is winning and how many seats', Rao said.

Meanwhile, Chief Electoral Officer Rajat Kumar in a press conference said, "Some political parties expressed apprehensions that there was distribution of liquor and money in some places. We gave strict instructions to police and other officials to deal such incidents sternly."

"Distribution of voters' slips was done 100 per cent," he said.

Polling will start at 7 am and end at 5 pm, while in 13 constituencies which were classified as Left Wing Extremist-affected, polling ends one hour before (4 pm).

As many as 446 flying squads are in operation in the state to swing into action if any irregularity is reported during the elections and 448 static surveillance teams would also keep a watch on the situation and would wait in wings to take action, Kumar said.

Besides, 224 video-surveillance teams and 133 video-viewing teams have been pressed into service.

There are 126 assistant expenditure observers and 123 accounting teams.

For the first time, Election Commission is using Voters Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in Telangana.

As many as 1,821 candidates including a transgender are in the fray in the election.

Huge sums of unaccounted cash and illegal liquor and other goods were seized since the Model Code of Conduct came into effect on September 27.

As per the last count, the total seizures stood at nearly Rs 135 crore including unaccounted cash, illegal liquor and other goods, Rajat Kumar said adding that the total seizures was 90 per cent more than that of during 2014 polls.

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