Friday, December 13, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Heavy voter turnout in Gujarat
‘Silent wave’ may swing either way
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

Caretaker Chief Minister Narendra Modi pacifies a group of voters
Caretaker Chief Minister Narendra Modi pacifies a group of voters whose names were omitted from voter lists in Ahmedabad on Thursday. Voters in various parts of the state took to the streets and shouted slogans against the Election Commission over the issue. — Reuters photo

Ahmedabad, December 12
Barring a few minor incidents of violence in the remote areas and complaints of names missing from the voters list in the urban areas, polling for 181 out of 182-member Gujarat assembly in which the fate of over 980 candidates will be decided ended on a peaceful note this evening.

While one of the main contenders and the ruling BJP seems to have found a point to take the personal fight to Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh on the issue of the missing names, the other major player — the Congress — was not complaining.

As the voters, whose names were missing from the voters list, attempted to get out of control at some places and expressed their anger, the BJP took the opportunity to announce that it would officially lodge a complaint with the Election Commission on the issue.

Caretaker Chief Minister Narendra Modi had to himself visit his Maninagar constituency to pacify angry voters and appeal to them to maintain peace and harmony.

Among those whose name was found missing from the voters list was the firebrand VHP leader Praveen Togadia, who also put the responsibility on the Chief Election Commissioner. The BJP said it was a political conspiracy against them.

Polling which started on a slow note picked up within half an hour. By the time two hours were over, the voting had already crossed 20 per cent and by late afternoon it was over 50 per cent. This was in contrast to the trend of just about 8 to 9 per cent of polling in the first two hours in the previous elections.

Despite being a heavy day for marriages in Gujarat today, voters turned out in large numbers to exercise their franchise. Godhra, which had been declared as hypersensitive by the Election Commission remained largely peaceful except for an incident where some mediapersons were gheraoed by the supporters of a candidate.

Heavy turnout was being translated as a wave in its favour by both the BJP and the Congress. While the BJP said that the heavy turnout was the result of the hard work put in by its workers and was a mandate for Mr Narendra Modi giving him a sweeping majority, the Congress said the heavy polling was evidence of the common man being upset with the BJP and was a mandate in its favour and for a change in the state.

However, even after the polling was over it was still not clear which of the two parties would be emerging as a winner when the results are announced on December 15. The situation remained as fluid as it was till yesterday.

Political analysts here on the other hand linked the heavy turnout to a possible “silent wave” in favour of either the BJP or the Congress. Although the voter still behaved in the same manner as he was doing till yesterday evening and was not ready to reveal his mind, analysts said that such a turn out could actually prove to be a sweeping mandate in favour of either of the two.

However, despite this silent wave, which could not be perceived, the private television channels basing their analysis on the exit polls gave victory to the BJP in the elections. While one channel gave 100 to 105 seats to the BJP and 65 to 70 seats to the Congress in the Legislative Assembly, another channel gave the BJP 93 to 109 seats and 72 to 88 seats to the Congress.

The exit poll of a channel also gave the BJP about 54 per cent of total votes that had been polled while the other gave 44 per cent. On the other hand the Congress was given 41 per cent of the votes.

The heavy turnout had also suddenly changed the general perception here that it would be a neck and neck race between the BJP and the Congress.

Incidentally, reports of the intelligence agencies also saw a turnaround from the last night and this morning’s report suggested a victory for the BJP with a tally of 100 to 110 seats. However, there was also a rider to it which suggested that the same could also be in favour of the Congress.

Elections in Gujarat were conducted amid tight security with as many as 430 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) posted all over the state. Besides the CRPF, the state police force was also deployed in full strength.

The concentration was more on the hypersensitive and sensitive polling stations. As part of the security measures, the state administration had increased patrolling along the coastal regions.

Extra precaution was also taken all along the borders of Gujarat with the other states. As part of the security measures, all borders were sealed by the police.

New Delhi (TNS): Sixtythree per cent voter-turnout has been registered in the Gujarat Assembly elections, the Election Commission said here on Thursday even as it refused to react on the claim of VHP leader Praveenbhai Togadia that his name was missing from the electoral rolls.

Speaking to newspersons, Deputy Election Commissioner, A.N. Jha, said the commission was awaiting the final reports of the returning officers, following which re-poll would be ordered in the affected booths.

As per the preliminary figures, Gujarat registered a voter-turnout of about 63 per cent.

Expressing satisfaction over the overall peaceful elections in the state, Mr Jha said only stray incidents of irregularities had been reported. By and large, the polling was free of any violent incidents.

Mr Jha downplayed reports that there was en masse deletion of names from the voters’ lists and said the EC had not received any complaints from any political party.

“The electoral lists were available free of charge to the political parties for some time before the polling. None of them complained about the deletion of any voter names. If some individual has complained somewhere, all I can say is that it is unfortunate,’’ he added.

He said the process of revision of electoral rolls was carried out in detail and house-to-house enumeration was done from September to October and, based on that, a draft was published in February this year.

Sufficient time was given to the electorate to verify and got their names included in case these were not found, he said, adding that the draft rolls were given free of cost to all recognised parties.

The Deputy Election Commissioner, however, admitted that some stray incidents of irregularities had been reported and the EC had taken immediate corrective measures to restore regularity.

Citing the example of one such incident, he said the presiding officers in two polling stations in the Kalol constituency were replaced as they were found favouring the candidates of one political party. In another incident in the Morvi constituency, the “carelessness” of the presiding officer resulted in 141 votes not being registered.

Polling was also disrupted for some time in two polling stations in the Anand constituency as the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were damaged and had to be replaced.

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