Wednesday, May 9, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Assembly poll campaign ends
Elections in WB, Assam, TN, Kerala on May 10

New Delhi, May 8
The din and bustle of fortnight-long electioneering for Thursday’s “mini-general election”, dubbed as a test of the Vajpayee government’s popularity after the Tehelka expose, ended this evening with loudspeakers falling silent in four states and union territory of Pondicherry.

With the end of the campaigning, leaders, candidates and party activists fanned out for door-to-door canvassing 36 hours ahead of the polling day.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, however, dismissed suggestions that the polls were a referendum on any particular issue or on his government’s performance.

The elections assume significance in view of new alignment of political forces in West Bengal, where the CPM-led Left Front government had an uninterrupted reign of 24 years, and in Tamil Nadu where the Opposition’s challenge had been led by Jayalalitha, who has been disqualified from contesting the polls.

The frenzied and bitter campaigning saw Mr Vajpayee launching a frontal attack on Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee with whom Congress chief Sonia Gandhi shared the dais for the first time since she quit the Congress.

Barring Assam where suspected ULFA militants left a bloody trail attacking party workers and candidates, electioneering was by and large peaceful in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry.

Suspected ULFA ultras shot dead BJP candidate for Dibrugarh constituency Jayanta Dutta as pre-poll bloodshed in Assam took its toll on Congress with unidentified gunmen killing five party workers.

Joining the electioneering almost at the fag end in Assam, Mr Vajpayee accused the Congress of having some nexus with the outlawed insurgent outfit ULFA.

Balloting will be held for 234 seats in Tamil Nadu, 294 in West Bengal, 140 in Kerala, 125 in Assam and 30 in Pondicherry. Electronic voting machines will be used for the first time in all the constituencies.

After reviewing the preparedness in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Pondicherry going to polls on May 10, Chief Election Commissioner M.S. Gill today expressed confidence that election will be peaceful and in order especially in Assam where more forces have been deployed than in any previous election. PTI


ULFA fires rockets at CRPF camp

Guwahati, May 8
The banned ULFA, which has threatened to disrupt the May 10 state Assembly elections, today struck again attacking a CRPF camp with three rockets at Boko in Kamrup district.

The militants’ attack on the CRPF camp, at around 1 a.m, proved abortive as the rockets pierced the ground two feet below and did not explode, the Kamrup SP, Dr L.R. Bishnoi, said.

The militants simultaneously opened fire from AK-47 rifles, which the CRPF jawans returned by firing 15 rounds, he said. PTI

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