More than 20 percent voting in 1st four hours in Madhya Pradesh, CM Kamal Nath in fray

Bhopal: Higher than 20 percent turnout was recorded in the first four hours as exercise of franchise continued without incident on Monday amid tight security in Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi, Shahdol, Mandla, Balaghat, Jabalpur and Chhindwara parliamentary constituencies and the Chhindwara Assembly segment, official sources said.

Despite the sweltering heat, considerable enthusiasm is perceived among electors and queues were observed.

In Balaghat’s Naxalism-affected Baihar, Lanji and Paraswada voting shall conclude at 1600 hrs. The electorate exceeds 1,05,55,000 – including 9,864 service voters – and the number of polling centres stands at 13,491 of which 2,515 are sensitive. Webcasting or closed-circuit television monitoring is being undertaken at more than 2,700 centres. Global positioning systems are present in every sector officer and polling team’s vehicle.

Chhindwara Vidhan Sabha constituency has 2,63,185 electors including 1,29,671 women. The polling centres number 300.

The fates of 108 candidates are being sealed in electronic voting machines in the state’s maiden phase of Lok Sabha polls. The area-wise break-up is Sidhi 26, Shahdol 13, Jabalpur 22, Mandla 10, Balaghat 23 and Chhindwara 14. In the Chhindwara Assembly segment nine nominees are in the fray.

Approximately 60,000 polling officials are on duty. More than 30,000 security personnel – comprising 85 companies of Central Armed Police Force, 38 of State Armed Force and others – have been deployed. A total 224 quick response teams were created; 79 inter-state check posts and 161 inter-district ones sealed; 8,700 vehicles are being used for transportation. Two helicopters are operating in insurgency-prone areas. Prohibitory action was initiated against 36,475 people; 19,836 licensed firearms deposited and 787 weapons confiscated.

The hurly-burly of campaigning died down at 1800 hrs on Saturday and aspirants later canvassed door to door.

Congress citadel Chhindwara is the cynosure of all eyes as Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s son Nakul (Congress) is making his entry into the political arena by challenging the saffron side’s Mr Nathan Shah.

The Chhindwara Vidhan Sabha by-election is indeed a high-profile one as Mr K Nath (Cong) is trying his fortune – his first Assembly poll battle – against Mr Vivek Sahu (Bharatiya Janata Party).

In Sidhi, the Assembly’s erstwhile leader of the opposition Ajay Singh (Cong) – son of former Human Resource Development minister and ex-chief minister Arjun Singh – is on collision course with saffron camp MP Riti Pathak; in Shahdol (Scheduled Tribes), Mrs Pramila Singh (Cong) is in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with Mrs Himadri Singh (BJP); Jabalpur’s principal contenders are advocate Vivek K Tankha (Cong) – a Rajya Sabha member – versus BJP state President Rakesh Singh; in Balaghat, Mr Madhu Bhagat (Cong) is up against Mr Dhal Singh Bisen (BJP) and in Mandla (ST), Mr Kamal Maravi (Cong) is fighting erstwhile central minister and five-time MP Faggan Singh Kulaste (BJP). The situation in Balaghat is rendered complex by the fact that present MP Bodhsingh Bhagat rebelled from the BJP and is contesting independently.

The state has 29 parliamentary constituencies that are to witness voting in four stages.

(With Agency Inputs)