Bhopal, Nov 25 (IANS) A record 32 million people – or the population of Peru – voted Monday in Madhya Pradesh in a largely peaceful exercise, with both the ruling BJP and the Congress claiming they will win.
Only minor incidents of violence marred the polling that began at 8 a.m. to pick a new 230-member legislature barring three constituencies of Balaghat district where it started an hour earlier to foil Maoist designs.
“Madhya Pradesh voting is likely to exceed 71 percent, the highest ever turnout in the state,” Deputy Election Commissioner Sudhir Tripathi told the media in New Delhi.
Voter turnout till 5 p.m. — when the polling centres closed — was 65.45 percent.
Bharatiya Janata Party’s Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, tweeted after balloting ended that her party would get another five-year term to govern Madhya Pradesh.
“I am sure the BJP will win with a huge margin in Madhya pradesh, bigger than last time,” she said.
Congress leaders said the record turnout showed that people were determined to oust the BJP.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who contested from his traditional Budhni constituency as well as from Vidisha, said he was confident the BJP would retain the state.
He told the media before voting in his village in Sehore district that his dream was to make Madhya Pradesh a developed state.
Union Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath asserted that the Congress would win at least 140 seats “as people want to be free of the corrupt BJP regime”.
Despite the deployment of a large number of security personnel, supporters of candidates exchanged gunfire near four polling booths each in Bhind and Morena districts.
Border Security Force troopers opened fire near a polling centre in Morena after a scuffle.
An electronic voting machine (EVM) was damaged in Bhind and one was taken away by thugs in Morena, a region known once as bandit country.
A similar incident was reported in Seoni district.
With 2,586 candidates in the fray, the main contest was between the BJP — which has ruled Madhya Pradesh since 2003 — and the Congress.
Among the prominent BJP candidates were former chief minister Babulal Gaur (Govindpura in Bhopal), minister Kailash Vijayvargiya (Mhow in Indore) and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s nephew Anoop Mishra (Bhitarvar in Gwalior).
BJP’s Yashodara Raje Scindia contested against her nephew and union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, projected as the Congress’ unofficial chief ministerial candidate, from Shivpuri in Gwalior.
Prominent Congress candidates included former union minister Suresh Pachauri (Bhojpur), leader of the opposition in the assembly Ajay Singh (Churhat), Digvijaya Singh’s son Jaivardhan Singh (Raghogarh), and Sachin Yadav, son of former deputy chief minister Subhash Yadav (Kasravad).
Officials said faulty EVMs were replaced at 15 places.
K.B. Srivastav, a teacher on election duty in Katni district, died after a heart attack.
Not a single vote was recorded in 10 polling booths in Ratlam, Raisen, Morena, Betul, Damoh and Rajgarh districts till 2 p.m. after the residents decided to keep away in protest over local issues.
The polling began briskly despite a chilly morning. Voters queued up at many polling centres even before they opened. As the sun rose, the queues kept lengthening.
For the first time, the “none of the above” (NOTA) option — a provision voters can use to reject all candidates – was made available to voters on the EVMs.
The BJP ousted the Congress in 2003. In 2008, it retained power winning 143 seats. The Congress won 71 seats.
The Madhya Pradesh verdict will be out Dec 8 along with the results of the Delhi, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh elections.
81 percent voting in Mizoram
Aizawl/New Delhi, Nov 25 (IANS) Balloting to elect a new government in the northeastern border state of Mizoram ended peacefully Monday, with over 81 percent of voters exercising their franchise, officials said.
“Over 81 percent of the total 690,860 voters cast their ballot across the state,” said Mawia, the joint chief electoral officer of Mizoram.
In the last assembly elections of December 2008, the polling percentage was 80.02 percent. The voting percentage of men voters was 78.77 percent while 81.24 percent women
cast their votes last time.
In New Delhi, Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshiconfirmed the figure.
“Polling was brisk and peaceful. No untoward incident was reported,” Zutshi said.
According to the election officials, this time also the percentage of votes cast by women voters was expected to be higher than men.
“Voting passed off peacefully, with not even a small incident reported from anywhere in the state,” an official told IANS over phone.
Long lines formed in front of polling booths even before the 7 a.m. opening time of the polling process, and many voters were seen waiting in queues to cast their votes even after the scheduled closing time of 4 p.m.
The ballots will be counted Dec 9.
This poll will decide the fate of 142 candidates, including six women and many independents.
Political parties expressed happiness over the heavy turnout of voters and peaceful elections.
At some of the polling stations, technical trouble with electronic voting machines (EVM) disrupted the process for brief periods.
The main poll battle is between the ruling Congress and opposition coalition Mizoram Democratic Alliance, comprising Mizo National Front (MNF), Mizoram People’s Conference and Maraland Democratic Front, all regional and local parties.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which has little base in the state, Zoram Nationalist Party and the Nationalist Congress Party are also separately contesting the elections, fielding candidates in many seats.
Of the 40 assembly seats, 39 are reserved for tribals. One seat is for the general category.
With a population of 10.91 lakh, Mizoram is the only state in India where women voters outnumber men by 9,806 in the total of 690,860. In all, there are 350,333 women voters against 340,527 males.
Altogether 1,126 polling stations were set up across the state to hold the elections. Mizoram shares borders with Myanmar (404 km) and Bangladesh (318 km).
A newly-designed device – Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) which confirms to a voter that his or her vote was cast as wished – was “used in 10 of the 40 assembly segments of Mizoram”, an election official said.
This is the first time this device has been used in any general election in the country.
Even though there was no major security threat from separatist outfits and Mizoram remained peaceful during the month-long electioneering, around 7,000 paramilitary, state and other security personnel were deployed to ensure free and fair polls.
Christian- and tribal-dominated Mizoram witnessed peaceful campaigning under the close watch of the powerful church-controlled Mizoram People’s Forum (MPF), a non-government election watchdog.
Mizoram Police chief Amulya Patnaik said that during the campaigning, not a single untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the state.
Monday’s vote will decide the political fortune of Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, his 11 cabinet colleagues, Mizoram Women’s Congress chief Tlangthanmawii and former chief minister and MNF president Zoramthanga.
Lal Thanhawla, also state Congress chief, is contesting from two constituencies -Serchhip, his home turf, and neighbouring Hrangturzo – and opposition MNF chief Zoramthanga is trying his electoral fortunes from Tuipui East, bordering Myanmar.
The Mizoram poll was earlier scheduled for Dec 4 and the counting of votes was scheduled for Dec 8.
But the Election Commission rescheduled the dates following the request of the church and the local political parties to allow the voters to go to church Sunday and to celebrate a local festival.
During the last assembly elections of December 2008, the Congress won 32 seats, the MNF three and the MDF one. The MPC and ZNP got two seats each.
The MNF, which ruled the state for 10 years till 2008, is the principal opposition party.