M A I N   N E W S

4 states go to polls today
Four lakh on security duty
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 30
After a high-voltage campaign, often bordering on the acrimonious, the stage is now all set for Monday’s crucial elections in the four states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi. Over 90 million voters are slated to decide the fate of 5000-plus candidates for the 590 seats of these Assemblies.

These elections have acquired far greater significance than any other Assembly polls in the recent past for several reasons. Coming a few months before next year’s Lok Sabha polls, this contest is being viewed as a dress rehersal for the main election, particularly since the BJP and the Congress are locked in a straight fight here.

The Election Commission has made all arrangements for this exercise, having deployed as many as 5.5 lakh officials and four lakh security personnel.

Having gone all out to wrest power from the Congress, these elections will provide crucial pointers to BJP’s popularity ratings and how it could possibly fare at the national level next year. The BJP’s individual showing will also determine its relations with its partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), holding out tantalising possibilities of fresh political realignments and equations.

Having made an equally aggressive bid to retain power in these four states, the Congress believes that its good performance now will go a long way in its plans to return to power at the Centre.

More immediately, however, the election will decide the political fortunes of key high-profile personalities from both sides of the political divide. Madhya Pradesh is witnessing a keen contest between two-term Chief Minister Digvijay Singh and the sanyasin from Khajurao, BJP’s Uma Bharati. Fighting the anti-incumbency factor, Diggy Raja made a vain attempt to focus on Uma Bharati’s hardline Hindutva agenda but BJP’s chief ministerial candidate did not fall into his trap. She instead attacked him on the issue of poor governance.

In neighbouring Chhattisgarh, another Congress Chief Minister, Ajit Jogi is fighting a tough battle to retain power. Although the Judeo episode was used by the Congress to launch a scathing attack against the BJP on the corruption issue, Mr Jogi’s perceived autocratic style of functioning made this a highly personalised election. The BJP was initially on the defensive about the “cash on camera” scandal but it gradually turned the tables with the controversial Chief Minister emerging as a target of its attack.

In Rajasthan, the BJP fielded former Union Minister Vasundhara Raje to take on the sitting Chief Minister, Mr Ashok Gehlot. While the BJP campaign sought to woo the electorate with a call for “parivartan” or change, Mr Gehlot highlighted the work done by his government in handling last year’s drought. Similarly, in Delhi, the incumbent Chief Minister, Ms Sheila Diskhit, is focusing on her government’s performance while her rival Madan Lal Khurana is banking on the incumbency factor as well as dissidence, its poor choice of candidates and complacency in the Congress, to help it through this otherwise tough contest.


Naxals attack poll parties, snatch EVMs

Raipur, November 30
Naxalites today attacked poll parties, snatched electronic voting machines meant for three polling booths and triggered blasts on the eve of the Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, a day after attacking a convoy of a Congress candidate which left seven people dead.

Outlawed People’s War Group naxalites, who have called for a boycott of the Assembly elections, attacked polling parties heading for polling booths in the Cherkanthi, Padeda and Pusbaka areas in Dantewada district and snatched EVMs and other election material, official sources said.

Naxalites also fired at and triggered landmines targetting polling parties in Banda and Bhairamgarh areas of the district but there were no reports of any casualty, the sources said. The police escorting poll officials at Bhairamgarh reported five landmine blasts by Naxals near Bhagirathi river. — PTI

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