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I N D I A     V O T E S

Karnal
Brahmin nominees have been lucky
Karnal, April 25
Despite nominal 15 per cent Brahmin voters, the Karnal parliamentary constituency in sugar and rice belt of Haryana has remained a happy hunting ground for Brahmin candidates. Of the nine Lok Sabha elections after the constituency was carved out in 1977, Brahmin candidates won eight times.

Bhiwani-Mahendragarh
Lal vs Lal: Much at stake for clans
Chandigarh, April 25
The hot winds blowing across the sandy landscape of the prestigious Bhiwani-Mahendragarh Lok Sabha seat have ensured that dust never settles down on the Lal versus Lal election saga.

Punjab
BSP’s best bets: Ferozepur, Hoshiarpur
Chandigarh, April 25
The Bahujan Samaj Party may love to repeat 1996 when three of its candidates, including the party supremo Kanshi Ram, were declared elected to the Lok Sabha from Punjab. The other two were Mohan Singh (Ferozepore) and Harbhajan Lakha (Phillaur). Since then, the party has failed to get representation in the Lok Sabha from Punjab.


Poll speak

It is the dog that wags the tail, not the tail that wags the dog. The Left should have ample figures so that someone should ask for their support
— Cong spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi reacting to the Left’s remarks that it may seek outside support from the Cong if the Third Front forms the government

There is no way we will support a Congress-led government because the Congress DNA is such that it just cannot work with a joint programme.
— CPM Politburo member Brinda Karat in an interview

I along with other BJP workers will be very happy if Shourie's wishes come true.
— Arun Jaitley, when asked to comment on colleague Arun Shourie's remarks hinting that Gujarat CM Narendra Modi could be the BJP's prime ministerial candidate in the next general election

CPM candidate Pramothas Mukherjee’s supporters campaign for their leader in Murshidabad.
CPM candidate Pramothas Mukherjee’s supporters campaign for their leader in Murshidabad. — PTI

Polling agents caught on camera casting votes
Hyderabad, April 25
Polling agents in two election booths in Andhra Pradesh's Prakasam district were caught on camera while casting votes with voters. A polling official was also seen advising a voter to cast his vote for the ruling Congress, election officials said today.

Gujarat
Crime and assets: BJP, Cong peers
In the land of the Mahatma, the BJP and the Congress may be arrayed against each other in all 26 parliamentary constituencies, but when it comes to both candidates’ assets and criminal antecedents, they appear equal.

Bihar
Brahmin, Rajput votes will matter in Yadav land
Madhepura, April 25
The numerically preponderant position of Yadavs in this Lok Sabha constituency had earned it the sobriquet “Rome Pope Ka aur Madhepura Gope Ka.” (Rome belongs to Pope and Madhepura belongs to Gope.) Yadavs are also identified as Gopes. Madhepura’s claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of BP Mandal, the ‘author’ of Mandal Commission report.

Delimitation, Third Front may alter equations in Bengal 
Malda/Raigunj, April 25
Conventional wisdom will have it that Deepa Dasmunsi in Raigunj, Mausam Noor in Maldha North and her uncle Abu Haseem Khan Chaudhary from Malda South, all three contesting from neighbouring parliamentary constituencies on the Congress ticket, should sail through this general election on the strength of their pedigree and past records.

Pollscape

Poll Buzz

Voter’s guide


The BBC India Election train is readied before it leaves from Safdarjung railway station in New Delhi on Saturday to embark on a three-week journey across the country.
ELECTION EXPRESS: The BBC India Election train is readied before it leaves from Safdarjung railway station in New Delhi on Saturday to embark on a three-week journey across the country. — PTI
Paramilitary personnel take rest at Agartala airport on Saturday before leaving for Kolkata, ahead of the third phase of the general election.
Paramilitary personnel take rest at Agartala airport on Saturday before leaving for Kolkata, ahead of the third phase of the general election. — PTI 

 





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Karnal
Brahmin nominees have been lucky
Bhanu P Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Karnal, April 25
Despite nominal 15 per cent Brahmin voters, the Karnal parliamentary constituency in sugar and rice belt of Haryana has remained a happy hunting ground for Brahmin candidates. Of the nine Lok Sabha elections after the constituency was carved out in 1977, Brahmin candidates won eight times.

The only non-Brahmin candidate to win from this seat was former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal who wrote a new chapter by defeating I.D Swami of BJP in 1998 polls. Another aberration was the bypoll in 1978 following appointment of Bhagwat Dayal Sharma as governor of Orissa. Mohinder Singh Lather of JP won the seat at that time.

The delimitation has not affected the Karnal constituency except for exclusion of 17 villages of Nilokheri assembly segments and addition of nine villages of Jind, four villages of Kaithal and two villages of Sonepat. The minor alteration has neither changed demographic character of the constituency nor the caste equations, but the political spectrum has undergone a perceptible change since the last elections in 2004.

The number of electorate has come down from 12.40 lakh in 2004 to 12.13 lakh this time (a decrease of over 27,000 votes) in the constituency comprising five assembly segments of Karnal and four segments of Panipat districts. .

Old rivals, Arvind Sharma, the sitting Congress MP and former Union Minister of state for Home, Ishwar Dayal Swami of BJP are again pitted against each other.

The BJP has entered into alliance with INLD, no Congress rebel is in the fray, former CM Bhajan Lal has left the Congress and floated Haryana Janhit Congress, Haryana Vikas Party has evaporated from the scene and Varinder Maratha of Ekata Party is contesting on the BSP ticket.

Maratha who belongs to Rod community has a strong base and the support of BSP he could dent the Congress vote bank substantially. Moreover, Romesh Kumar Chhabra of HJC, the only candidate from Panipat is trying to make the contest as Karnal versus Panipat and if he succeeds in his endeavour, it would mar prospects of both the Congress and BJP.

The Congress, which denied the ticket to a Valmiki candidate from Sirsa and did not accommodate any Punjabi in its list, is on the back foot, while the BJP cadres are not very happy over alliance with INLD.

The Sikhs, who overwhelmingly supported the Congress in 2004 polls, are divided with Nalvi and Jinda factions of HSGPC pulling in opposite directions, while Swami is banking on support of INLD as former minister Ashok Arora, who contested as INLD candidate last time has shifted to Kurukshetra.

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Bhiwani-Mahendragarh
Lal vs Lal: Much at stake for clans
Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 25
The hot winds blowing across the sandy landscape of the prestigious Bhiwani-Mahendragarh Lok Sabha seat have ensured that dust never settles down on the Lal versus Lal election saga.

This poll is no exception as the third generation of the two Lals, Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal and former Chief Minister Bansi Lal, is in the ring to battle it out not only for the Lok Sabha seat but to retain their family prestige and political future.

So, despite the absence of Bhajan Lal’s gen next, this election promises to be as interesting as the last one in 2004 when the former’s son Kuldeep Bishnoi won the election, defeating both Surender Singh and Ajay Chautala.

Congress candidate Shruti Choudhry (33), daughter of Surender Singh and Kiran Choudhry, is looking to return to the people “Bhiwani ki chaudhar” that existed in the times of her grandfather, Chaudhary Bansi Lal. Over the years, it has not has only waned and lost much of its effect but even slipped out to Rohtak.

A veteran in the field of fighting elections as compared to debutant Shruti, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) candidate Ajay Chautala is banking on the jobs he doled out to the people of Bhiwani in his earlier term as MP. He is also relying on the divided Congress house to sail through.

However, there is a third dimension to the seat which has changed complexion after the recent delimitation, making way for the exit of Bhajan Lal’s clan from Bhiwani and the entry of Mahendragarh. With Hansi and Adampur going to Hisar, Bhajan Lal’s son and last election’s winning candidate Kuldeep Bishnoi has opted out of the race in this election.

The significant change in the seat has come by way of addition of the four assembly segments of Ateli, Mahendragarh, Narnaul and Nangal Chaudhary, primarily Ahir-dominated, to Bhiwani.

Adding greater excitement to the contest in Bhiwani is the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) candidate Rao Narinder. Fielded by his party with an eye on the Ahir vote bank and the division in the Jat vote bank caused by fielding of Jat candidates by the two main parties, he, too, is hoping to strike it lucky.

While the stakes are high for the INLD, the Chautala clan and Ajay Chautala especially after the last election’s drubbing, all eyes in the Congress, too, are on this seat where it is not a fight from the rivals alone but also from the “extended family”.

Winning the Bhiwani-Mahendragarh seat is important for the mother-daughter duo in terms of successfully inheriting Bansi Lal’s legacy especially since they face stiff opposition from within the family. Local MLAs and Shruti’s uncles Ranbir Mohindra and Somvir have so far stayed away from campaigning while some other MLAs, too, are proving detrimental to Shruti’s interests, according to the Chaudhary camp.

However, this election also assumes special significance for the detractors’ camps within the Congress where Finance Minister Birender Singh is emerging as the “star campaigner”. Having lost out to Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in his fight for a ticket from Sonepat, he is now seeking solace in “elevating” other more amenable leaders’ status in the party.

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Punjab
BSP’s best bets: Ferozepur, Hoshiarpur
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 25
The Bahujan Samaj Party may love to repeat 1996 when three of its candidates, including the party supremo Kanshi Ram, were declared elected to the Lok Sabha from Punjab. The other two were Mohan Singh (Ferozepore) and Harbhajan Lakha (Phillaur). Since then, the party has failed to get representation in the Lok Sabha from Punjab.

Its only recent achievement has been the election of its state president, Avtar Singh Karimpuri, to the Rajya Sabha from the Uttar Pradesh quota.

In the last assembly elections in 2007, it drew a blank. Nomination of Karimpuri to the Rajya Sabha and projection of Mayawati as a prime ministerial candidate may have enthused the party workers in the state for the May 7 and May 13 poll in Punjab, yet consolidation expected of a party like the BSP is still not there.

Perhaps the state is waiting for “Behanji” to address a couple of election meetings in the state to activate them for the electoral battle on hands.

Brushing aside allegations that some of the tickets for the Lok Sabha elections were sold, the state leadership is hopeful of giving both the Congress-led UPA and the BJP-led NDA a good run for their money in the coming elections. Shedding aside its “Dalit” robe, the party has roped in upper caste, highly educated professionals as its candidates for all 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state. They have fielded doctors, a retired judge and a General.

Ferozepur and Hoshiarpur are their best bets. The third seat from where the BSP used to do well was Phillaur that, after delimitation, has gone. In the 2004 elections, Pawan Kumar Tinu had polled more than a lakh votes in Phillaur from where the deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha, Charanjit Singh Atwal of the SAD, was elected. Even in Jalandhar, the BSP candidate had polled well.

Compared to the 1999 general election, when the BSP fielded only three candidates, its poll percentage almost doubled to 7.67 in 2004 when it contested all 13 seats. Punjab has a substantial Dalit vote. BSP normally eats into the Congress vote bank.

Interestingly, none of the BSP candidates of 2004 elections is in the fray this time. Instead, it has fielded a former Governor of Punjab and Chief of Army Staff of Western Command General Bakshi Krishan Nath Chhibber from Amritsar.

General Chhibber is contesting against Test cricketer Navjot Sidhu and sitting Amritsar West Congress MLA Om Parkash Soni.Though in the last elections, besides Pawan Kumar Tinu, other BSP candidates who polled more than a lakh votes were Charanjit Singh Channi (Hoshiarpur - 1,56,270) and Mohan Singh (Ferozepore, 1,01,921), none of them has been repeated this time. Devi Dass Nahar (Jalandhar) polled 69,188 votes. Hoshiarpur, Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ferozepore will be the seats where the BSP candidates can play spoilsport to their more fancied opponents.

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Polling agents caught on camera casting votes

Hyderabad, April 25
Polling agents in two election booths in Andhra Pradesh's Prakasam district were caught on camera while casting votes with voters. A polling official was also seen advising a voter to cast his vote for the ruling Congress, election officials said today.

State Chief Electoral Officer IV Subba Rao said the agents of different parties went to voting compartments with the voters and cast the votes. "Some polling officials may also be involved," he said. Their acts were caught on closed-circuit television cameras installed in the polling centres.

The incidents occurred in two polling centres in Kondukur assembly constituency in Prakasam district during the second phase of elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assembly on Thursday.

There were six polling officials and one agent from every major party in each polling booth.The camera footage showed agents accompanying people to the voting compartments, where the voter alone should enter.— IANS

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Gujarat
Crime and assets: BJP, Cong peers
Dinesh Kumar writes from Ahmedabad

In the land of the Mahatma, the BJP and the Congress may be arrayed against each other in all 26 parliamentary constituencies, but when it comes to both candidates’ assets and criminal antecedents, they appear equal.

The BJP has fielded 11 candidates with criminal records while the Congress has fielded 10. In addition, 17 Congress and 12 BJP contestants have declared assets valued in crores. Interestingly, of the total 359 candidates contesting elections in the state, 69 or 19.22 per cent contestants have criminal records, which is marginally higher than the national average of 17 per cent calculated for the 3,058 candidates who have contested in the first two phases of the ongoing elections.

In addition, 48 candidates (17.41 per cent) contesting from Gujarat are crorepatis. The BJP has the highest average of party-wise assets at Rs 2.32 crore with the Congress at a close second with Rs 2.27 crore.

Ironically, Vitthalbhai Hansrajbhai Radadiya, the Congress candidate contesting from Porbandar, the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi, has 16 criminal cases against him accounting for the highest number of such cases registered against any candidate in this state. These cases include attempt to murder, voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons, and dacoity.

In fact, Porbandar tops the list of constituencies with the highest ratio of candidates with criminal antecedents - four out of a total seven candidates (over 50 per cent) have criminal cases pending against them. Otherwise, Junagadh, with six, has the highest number of contestants with criminal antecedents.

With six criminal cases, Chandrakant Raghunath Patil from Navsari constituency is the BJP’s candidate with the highest number of cases registered against him. He is also the party’s richest candidate with assets worth Rs 24.2 crore who incidentally is pitted against the richest Congress candidate, Dhansukhbhai Bhagvatiprasad Rajput, who has declared assets worth Rs 13.12 crore.

The candidate holding the dubious distinction of having the second highest number of criminal cases registered against him is Chotubhai Amarsinhbhai Vasava, a JD(U) candidate contesting from Bharuch with 13 cases. Most of the 69 contestants with criminal records otherwise have between one and three cases registered against them.

The figures released by the Association for Democratic Reforms reveal that the candidates with criminal antecedents have 48 charges of heinous nature registered against them which include murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, extortion etc.

Interestingly, Gujarat also boasts of fielding the country’s second richest candidate. Khimjibhai Harjivanbhai Patadiya, an Independent candidate contesting from Surendranagar, has declared assets worth Rs 515 crore. Yet, intriguingly, he has not furnished a PAN number. In fact, as many as 204 candidates (56 per cent) contesting elections have not furnished a PAN number.

Of the 43 candidates who also contested in the 2004 parliamentary elections, 37 have increased their assets while six have reduced their assets. The highest is a staggering 6,357 per cent increase recorded by Valjibhai Shiroya, who is contesting as an Independent from Amreli. Bharatbhai Solanki, the Congress candidate from Anand, has recorded a 3,003 per cent hike from Rs 9.96 lakh to Rs 3.09 crore. On an average, candidates in this state have increased their assets by 143 per cent.

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Bihar
Brahmin, Rajput votes will matter in Yadav land
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Madhepura, April 25
The numerically preponderant position of Yadavs in this Lok Sabha constituency had earned it the sobriquet “Rome Pope Ka aur Madhepura Gope Ka.” (Rome belongs to Pope and Madhepura belongs to Gope.) Yadavs are also identified as Gopes. Madhepura’s claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of BP Mandal, the ‘author’ of Mandal Commission report.

Sharad Yadav was brought to this Yadav heartland by Lalu in 1996 to contest the Lok Sabha polls. Sharad won the polls from here and since then he has pitched his tent in Madhepura making it his political constituency.

After Sharad and Lalu split and Lalu formed his own party --- RJD--- the two Yadav stalwarts contested against each other from here in 1998 Lok Sabha elections to test their popularity among their caste men.

The Yadavs of Madhepura opted for Lalu. But even after losing the election, Sharad did not pack his bags from here. Rather he bought a piece of land and constructed a house at Madhepura. In the subsequent election, Sharad avenged his defeat by outsmarting Lalu. But even then it seems that he could not establish himself as an unchallenged leader of the Yadavs.

His victory was attributed to the en bloc votes of non-Yadavs, besides all upper castes. This was further vindicated by his defeat at the hands of Lalu from this constituency again in 2004.

Once again Sharad Yadav is in the fray from here. Though Lalu is not in the electoral arena of Madhepura , his party nominee Ravindra Charan Yadav is seeking votes only in the name of RJD chief making it a proxy battle between Sharad and Lalu.

But the caste configuration of the constituency has changed after fresh delimitation and the Yadavs alone cannot determine the election results from here any more. With the addition of two new assembly segments, the Brahmin and Rajput votes have also become quite substantial. In the changed circumstances, Sharad could have sailed through easily but the Congress has put its own candidate this time. And the Congress nominee, Taranand Sada, being a local Brahmin, is bound to get a majority of his caste votes.

An Independent MLA from the newly added Assembly constituency of Sonbarsha, Kishor Kumar Munna is also in the fray compounding the problems of Sharad..

Despite his 13 years of political innings from here, Sharad is still considered to be ‘a guest’ or an ‘outsider’ among the majority of Yadavs in Madhepura. “He neither speaks our language nor has he learnt the culture of this area. How long can we host a guest?,” questioned Jyoti Mandal, a postgraduate and kin of BP Mandal. 

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Delimitation, Third Front may alter equations in Bengal 
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

Malda/Raigunj, April 25
Conventional wisdom will have it that Deepa Dasmunsi in Raigunj, Mausam Noor in Maldha North and her uncle Abu Haseem Khan Chaudhary from Malda South, all three contesting from neighbouring parliamentary constituencies on the Congress ticket, should sail through this general election on the strength of their pedigree and past records.

This pocket of north Bengal is a sort of Congress bastion in the Red land of West Bengal. Malda, this time bifurcated in north and south, is a kind of fiefdom of ABA Ghani Khan Chaudhary, who never lost a single election here.

Upon his death, his younger brother Abu Haseem contested the byelection and won. Now the bifurcation in fresh delimitation has offered Ghani Khan’s sister’s daughter Mausam Noor to share her late uncle’s mantle with her younger uncle.

Similarly in next door Raigunj, Priyaranjan Dasmunsi’s wife Deepa is fighting to retain the legacy of Priyada lying critically ill in Apollo Hospital in Delhi. Malda, Murshidabad and Raigunj constitute virtually an island in a Red sea. Dasmunsi is a two-term MP from Raigunj.

But fresh delimitation has slightly changed the complexion of all three parliamentary segments. “The sum total is,” said a Congress activist Abdul Kalam, “we win some, we lose some.” But which of these could be a loss to the Congress is anybody’s guess.

Kalam and Shajir Ahmad maintained that Mausam Noor was a sure winner. She was the darling of her uncle Ghani Khan (Khan had no offsprings). Her mother was also the sitting MLA and when she died recently, Noor contested the assembly bypoll and won.

“She is a leading legal practitioner and her popularity has spread far and wide,” her supporters proudly claim. But Jeeban Moitra, the district secretary of CPM, is equally certain of the victory of his party this time. “If you speak of Malda South, I am willing to concede that Abu Haseem Khan is likely to retain his seat.

But here in Malda North, no way can Congress win this time,” said a confident CPM leader. Moitra’s reassurance comes from the profile of this newly carved out constituency, where the CPM controls five of the seven assembly segments.

A similar argument is extended by Ashok Chakraverty of the CPM in Raigunj to claim that Deepa Dasmunsi, a rank outsider, is at a double disadvantage this time. “Even Priyada used to admit privately that he would find it hard to retain his seat after delimitation. Deepa is from Kolkata.

She has no idea about things here. Whereas our man Baleshwar Lahiri is the son of the soil, who is fully familiar with the changed profile of the constituency and, therefore, he has a distinct advantage over Deepa,” said Chakraverty.

But beyond this a significant theme recurring in the monologues of CPM leaders, big and small, “We are going to form our own government this time. So vote for our candidates.” This may perhaps enthuse the die- hard CPM/Left supporters to vote for the party notwithstanding the incumbency factor.

But by the same yardstick, it may further strengthen the resolve of anti-Left/CPM voters to vote against the CPM/Left.

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Pollscape
Hubby can wait

Imagine a candidate whose wife always votes for his rival! That's the case with Ajit Kumar Jain ‘Patwa’ of Madhya Pradesh. Jain, 55, is contesting from Indore as an independent for a record 27th time and is busy campaigning. But he always fails to “woo” his wife Rajkumari Jain, who votes for his rival. Ask him why his wife doesn't vote for him and he says: “Bai bai ko vote deti hai (women vote for women).

My wife votes for the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party's) Sumitra Mahajan even though she has done little for the city,” he said. Jain, who earns Rs.200 per day by making fancy necklaces, has contested no less than eight times for the Lok Sabha and nine times each for the assembly and Indore Municipal Corporation. This time round he wants enough people to vote for him so that he does not lose his deposit. But will Rajkumari be one of them?

Real inspiration

He was arrested following reports that he was distributing money to voters in his constituency in Bihar and claims he was harassed by the administration a day before the polls. Filmmaker-turned-politician Prakash Jha is now set to write a film on his election experience as a Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) candidate. “It’s great entertainment. And for me my cinema has always been a mirror of the wider reality. During ‘Gangaajal’ I took on Sadhu Yadav when he alleged I had used real-life Bihar politics in the film. Now I’ve taken him on at the elections. He was arrested on Wednesday and subsequently released after the Bihar police recovered Rs 10.25 lakhs in cash following reports that he was distributing money to voters in the West Champaran constituency. Jha has vehemently denied the allegations. — IANS

Toast trouble

The Election Commission’s decision to ban liquor from Catholic weddings in Goa held on the notified dry days during the Lok Sabha polls has forced a rights group to approach the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) for relief. The All Goa Catholic Minority Forum (AGCMF) has claimed that the poll panel’s decision went against the customs and traditions followed at Catholic weddings, where use of wine is an integral part of the ceremony.

“Raising a toast during weddings and serving liquor to guests is a custom in every Catholic wedding in Goa. The Election Commission has no right to trample on our long standing tradition,” said Bernabe Sapeco, convenor of the AGCMF. — IANS

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Poll Buzz
Over 3 lakh ‘troublemakers'

Patna: Over 300,000 ‘suspected troublemakers’ have been identified by authorities in Bihar and asked to furnish bonds, vowing not to take to violence during the next two phases of the Lok Sabha polls in the state April 30 and May 7, police said on Saturday. “ll the identified troublemakers were directed to furnish bonds, pledging that they will not create a disturbance during the elections,” said additional director general of police Neelmani. — IANS

Assault case

New Delhi: Three days after activists of a social organisation were allegedly attacked by the BJP workers in Gujarat, it lodged a complaint with the Election Commission in this connection on Saturday alleging that no action has so far been taken against the perpetrators. Anhad, the social organisation, also urged the EC to issue guidelines to the Gujarat administration and police for allowing civil society groups, activists and ordinary citizens to campaign in the state and ensure their safety. — PTI

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Voter’s guide

Are there any conditions/ guidelines for setting up temporary offices by parties or candidates?

Yes. Such offices can’t be opened by way of encroachment either on public or private property/ in any religious place or campus of such religious place/ contiguous to any educational institution/ hospital / within 200 metres of an existing polling station. Further, such offices can display only one party flag and banner with the party symbol/ photographs. The size of the banner used in such offices should not exceed 4 ft X 8 ft, subject to a further condition that if the local laws prescribe a smaller size for the banner/ hoarding, etc, the smaller size will prevail.

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