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India votes today
Maoist violence threatens polling

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 15
India will vote today to elect Members of Parliament in as many as 124 Lok Sabha constituencies spread over 15 states and 2 Union Territories. The fate of 1,715 candidates will be sealed by Thursday afternoon.

A whopping 14.31 crore voters are expected to exercise their right to franchise in the first phase of the election today. The other four phases are slated to be held on April 23 and 30 and May 7 and 13.

Threat of violence by Maoists has prompted the Election Commission to bring forward the closing-time of voting to 3 p.m. in naxalite affected areas of Orissa, Chattisgarh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra among other states.

The Election Commission today put the onus on television channels on what they should telecast in areas going to polls.

“It is the responsibility of television channels to decide whether they are showing something which will violate Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act,” said the Commission’s Legal Adviser S K Mendiratta.

Section 126 prohibits displaying any election matter by means of TV or similar apparatus during 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of polling in a constituency. This includes a bar on telecast of programmes involving candidates from the constituency that are going to polls. Interviews with candidates or projecting candidates on TV during this period is also deemed a violation of the section.

The EC had yesterday banned exit polls and advised the media, specially TV channels, to adhere by the code. The order had stated that programmes like debate and panel discussions can be telecast provided they are not in the nature of election campaign and do not promote the prospect of any political party or candidate.

The counting is on May 16. Tommorow will be the test for RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi, Telangana Rashtra Samiti's K Chandrasekhar Rao, Congress’ Renuka Chaudhary, actor Vijayasanthi, NTR's daughter D Purandeswari and former union minister B Dattatreya are among the other prominent names seeking election in the first phase.

The constituencies are in Andhra Pradesh (22), Arunachal Pradesh (2), Assam (3), Bihar (13), J&K (1), Kerala (20), Maharashtra (13), Manipur (1), Meghalaya (2), Mizoram(1), Nagaland (1), Orissa (10), Uttar Pradesh (16), Chhattisgarh (11), Jharkhand (6), Andaman (1) and Lakshadweep (1). Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa will also be held simultaneously. While elections will be held in 154 out of a total of 294 assembly constituencies in Andhra, 70 out of 147 assembly constituencies will go to polls in Orissa. Meanwhile, a report by the Association of Democratic Rights (ADR) released today said nearly 16 per cent of candidates in the fray tomorrow have criminal backgrounds.

Separately, the EC said the maximum number of candidates are in the fray in Mahbubnagar and Raipur in Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, respectively. A total of 32 candidates will be contesting in each of these constituencies. Also, five women will be contesting in each of these constituencies — that is the highest number for this phase. The mainstream national parties will have 394 candidates while the rest will be from regional parties or state level parties. In this phase congress has fielded 111 candidates while the main opposition party, the BJP has fielded 102 candidates.

The BSP will also have 111 candidates in the fray. This huge number of the BSP candidates is due to the decision of the party to have a pan India look rather than restrict itself to the “Hindi belt”. The CPM and the CPI will be contesting 23 seats and 15 seats, respectively, while the RJD led by Lalu Prasad will fight on 18 seats.

Among the regional party the Samajwadi Party will have its contestants on 23 seats while the Biju Janata Dal will be in the fray on nine seats while the Jharkahnd Mukti Morcha will contest on 12 seats. The CPI (ML) will field its candidates on 18 seats and the TDP will have its candidates on 11 seats. The TDP is in pre-poll alliance with the left parties. Tight security arrangements have been made for the polls with central paramilitary forces being deployed along with the security forces of the States.

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