Tuesday, February 22, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Tight security for today’s poll
Shoot orders issued in Bihar

NEW DELHI, Feb 21 (UNI) — As many as 108 assembly seats in violence-prone Bihar, 90 in defection-plagued Haryana, 77 in cyclone-ripped Orissa and 32 in insurgency-affected Manipur will go to the polls tomorrow with an electorate of more than 40 million exercising its franchise.

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

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

Prime Minister Atal Behari 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, BSP leader Kanshi Ram, CPM Politburo member Sitaram Yechuri, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav, state Chief Minister Rabri Devi, among others, had already addressed several 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 sustaining injuries when the ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) activists attacked their chopper yesterday, while BJP candidate Chandramukhi Devi was threatened with dire consequences by the supporters of an Independent candidate.

At least five persons have been arrested so far in connection with the attack on Sharad Yadav when his helicopter made an unscheduled stopover for refuelling near the Madhepura Stadium where RJD supremo Laloo Prasad Yadav was to address an election rally.

Tej Prakash Singh, Bahujan Samaj Party candidate from Kataiya, was arrested in a late night swoop by the police. He was wanted in 14 criminal cases.

The Congress, meanwhile, filed a writ petition in the Patna High Court seeking a directive to debar NDA candidates from contesting elections tomorrow because they had violated the model code of conduct. Congress in charge for Bihar Mohsina Kidwai and party state Election Committee Chairman Subodh Kant Sahay told reporters that the NDA’s alleged attempts to influence police and civil officers through the media with the purpose to further its electoral prospects amounted to violation of the model code of conduct.

On the other hand, Janata Dal (United) leader and Communication Minister Ram Vilas Paswan today urged the Election Commission to install closed-circuit television in all counting centres in Bihar to check poll irregularities.

Among the candidates whose fate would 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 CPM member Madhvi Sarkar.

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

The electoral fortunes of 14 Council of Ministers in 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 would be sealed in the ballot boxes tomorrow.

In Manipur, the fate of 196 candidates will be decided in 32 constituencies amid apprehension of disturbances following imposition of public curfew on the polling day by the All-Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU).

Chief Minister W. Nipamacha Singh, 14 members of his Council of Ministers and Assembly Speaker K. Babudhon Singh are seeking re-election in the second phase.


Haryana seals borders
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Feb 21 — Over 11 million voters will decide the political fate of 965 candidates tomorrow in one of the keenly contested Assembly elections in the state.

Though rebels of various parties and Independents have made the contest multi-cornered in several constituencies, the INLD-BJP alliance has some edge on its main rival, the Congress, which, of course, is all set to improve its performance of 1996 as well as that of the 1999 Lok Sabha elections when the party could lead only in five Assembly segments out of the 90.

The position of the INLD-BJP alliance would have been much more comfortable than what appears at present if the two partners had been able to work out the seat-sharing arrangement within closed doors. The statements and counter-statements by leaders of the two parties eroded the spirit of bon homie evident between their workers during the last Lok Sabha elections when the alliance made a clean sweep by winning all the 10 seats in the state.

Even when the INLD and the BJP reached an electoral understanding, an impression remained as if the alliance was between Mr Om Prakash Chautala and Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and not between the two parties. Rebels of the two parties contesting against each other’s official candidates did not help remove the impression. The initial indulgence shown by the INLD leadership towards its rebels further strengthened the impression as if the INLD was not interested in the victory of the BJP.

It was only after the Jind unit of the BJP threatened direct action, obviously with the tacit approval of the state leadership that the INLD leadership made efforts to control the self-inflicted damage.

The Congress has made an effort to cash in on the INLD-BJP squabble. But the party lived up to its past tradition and took its own time to decide the candidates. The Congressmen lost much of their valuable time in lobbying for the party ticket instead of wooing the voters.

It continued to change its candidates even after the list was made public. In three constituencies the party gave the authority letters for its symbol to more than one candidate. Despite assertions by its leaders that the winning prospect of a candidate will be the sole criteria for the ticket and not his or her group loyalty, at many places the party ended up in fielding relatively poor candidates.

It is for the first time that the INLD (in all incarnations) is contesting the Assembly elections while in power. The advantage was to be seen during campaigning. No where it appeared as if the INLD campaign had suffered a setback due to the shortage of resources. The party machinery was well-oiled. Since the party came to power only a few months ago and the elections were in the air, there was not much of anti-incumbency factor against it. The same could not be said about its partner, the BJP, which ruled the state for three years along with Mr Bansi Lal’s HVP.

The Congress attack against the INLD was mainly directed towards the past of its supremo, Mr Om Prakash Chautala. The party also tried to caution the electorate that it was in for heavy taxation in the next Union Budget as well as at the hands of the INLD government for financing various populist schemes announced in the past few months. It also criticised the INLD for not fulfilling its promise of free power.

The INLD sought votes primarily on the basis of its performance during the past six month and various steps taken by its government for all sections of society.

Two other parties mattered in the current campaign though these were not in the first league. The Haryana Vikas Party that had been in power for over three years concentrated on over 15 seats. It had fielded candidates on many more seats, but lacked the wherewithal to fight well. Its concentration was on its achievements and the promise was to provide a good government. The Bahujan Samaj Party had some rebels from other parties and was busy in queering the pitch either of the Congress or some other contenders. These parties could play a crucial role in case of a hung Assembly. For those some seats are assured.

Meanwhile, over 50,000 security personnel, including 50 companies of para-military forces, have been deployed on poll duty. The Election Commission has directed Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to seal their borders with Haryana one day before the Assembly elections in the state.

Prominent contestants include Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, former Chief Minister Bansi Lal, Haryana Congress President Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Vidhan Sabha Speaker Ashok Kumar Arora, Finance Minister Sampat Singh and Town and Country Planning Minister Dhir Pal Singh.

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