Thursday, May 10, 2001,
 Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

4 states go to polls today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 9
The stage is set for tomorrow’s assembly polls in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry where an estimated 13 crore voters would decide the fate of over 5,000 candidates in the fray in 823 constituencies.

The Assembly polls, being dubbed as a “popularity test” for the Vajpayee Government after the tehelka expose assumed significance in view of new alignment of political forces too.

Polling will be held for 234 seats in Tamil Nadu, 294 in West Bengal, 140 in Kerala, 125 in Assam and 30 in Pondicherry.

Election in Dibrugarh Assembly constituency in Assam has been countermanded following the killing of BJP candidate Jayanta Dutta on May 1 by suspected ULFA activists.

To ensure free and fair elections, the Election Commission has made elaborate security in the four states and the union territory.

Special emphasis on security has been laid in Assam, where the ULFA had threatened to disrupt the polls and have gunned down 37 persons in the run-up to elections.

Nearly 300 columns of Army, para-military and local police will be on guards in the militancy hit Assam to ensure smooth polls.

While Army has been deployed all along the Assam-Bhutan border to check infiltration of ULFA militants, Central Para-military forces have been deployed in adequate numbers in all sensitive polling booths, Election Commission sources said.

The contest in this hill state will be interesting with the AGP-BJP combine taking on the Congress and the independent making it a tough contest in many of the constituencies.

The stakes for the BJP are higher as the Central leadership had made a truck with the ruling AGP despite a rebellion in the party’s State Unit against the alliance.

In West Bengal, a red alert has been sounded in five districts along the Indo-Bangladesh border — South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur, Malda, Nadia and North 24 Parganas — to check infiltration. About 42,600 state policemen have been deployed in all districts except Kolkata.

Special security arrangements have been made in 15 per cent of the 61,542 polling booths, identified as “sensitive” in the state.

Besides, 300 additional Rapid Action Force personnel have been stationed in both North Bengal and South Bengal for any emergency, while two companies of additional central forces have been kept in Naxalite-infested Jalpaiguri District.

It would be a litmus test for the CPM-led Left Front, which ruled for 24 years in West Bengal. As the Trinamool-Congress combine set to give a good run for the ruling party, it would be interesting to note how the Left Front performs especially in the absence of Jyoti Basu, the charismatic leader who relinquished his post on health grounds in November last year, handing over the charge to his deputy Buddhadev Bhattacharya.

Adequate security measures have been taken in Kerala. Central forces along with local police personnel have been deployed in the three sensitive districts of Kannur, Kasargode and Kozhikode.

In Kerala, about 2.16 crore voters will decide the fate of 675 candidates including CWC Member A.K. Antony, Front Convener K. Sankaranarayanan and former Minister M.V. Raghavan.

In Tamil Nadu, over four crore voters are eligible to exercise franchise to decide the fate of 1,857 candidates.

Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who is trying his luck for the 10th time, is seeking re-election from Chepuk constituency. His son M.K.Stalin is contesting from Thousand Lights constituency.

The Election Commission’s dream to conduct the next parliamentary polls totally through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) would also depend a great deal on the successful use of the voting machines in tomorrow’s polls.

While EVMs are being used in all polling stations in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry, these machines are being used only in four Assembly constituencies in Assam.

By-elections to three Lok Sabha seats of Shahjehanpur in Uttar Pradesh, Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu and Midnapore in West Bengal will be held along with the Assembly polls.

The by-elections have been necessitated following the death of Congress leader Jitendra Prasada, Union Minister P.R. Kumaramangalam and CPI leader Indrajit Gupta.

By-elections to two assembly constituencies — Kshetrigao (Manipur) and Banamalipur (Tripura) — will be held on May 10 and May 11 respectively.Back

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