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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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I N D I A     V O T E S

Uttar Pradesh
Statehood vital issue in backward Bundelkhand

Jhansi, April 28
The demand for an independent Bundelkhand is the key issue that will decide the four parliamentary seats of development-deprived Bundelkhand region of the state these elections.

Main parties test popularity in ‘Mecca of Bihar’
Kishanganj (Bihar), April 28
Because of its large Muslim population(68 per cent) this Lok Sabha constituency is also referred to as the “Mecca of Bihar” in political circles. Strategically located on theborders of West Bengal, Nepal and Bangladesh, Kishanganj has become a very important Lok Sabha seat for the mainstream political parties.

Ratlam (MP)
BJP, Cong warhorses clash again

Ratlam (MP), April 28
The arrest of a gang of criminals here last week has overshadowed the parliamentary poll campaign in this reserved (ST) constituency. They used to kill the drivers of inter-state taxis.

‘Tai’ fights to keep Indore key
Indore, April 28
For the first time, six-time winner Bharatiya Janata Party’s Sumitra Mahajan is facing her life’s toughest parliamentary poll in this commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh. Although the Congress nominee, Satyanarayan Patel, is much younger to her, less experienced and not a political heavyweight, his campaign has created such hype that the ‘‘tai’’, as Mahajan is popularly known, is losing her cool.


Pollspeak

Pranab Mukherjee on Sharad Pawar’s remarks that the antipathy displayed by the Cong and Left parties was “posturing” 
Cong, Left cannot be brought together now 
— Pranab Mukherjee on Sharad Pawar’s remarks that the antipathy displayed by the Cong and Left parties was “posturing” 

I will not use any bad words for the Congress. Meri maa ne kaha hai ki jo apni antim saanse gin raha ho, uske baare me galat tippani nahi karni chahiye (My mother has said one should not comment wrongly against anybody who is breathing his last)
— BJP leader Varun Gandhi at an election rally in Lucknow

How long can you continue as your father's son? Uddhav has not even shown an inclination to prove his credentials
— NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray, speaking on a Marathi news channel


SAILING SUPPORT: A supporter salutes National Conference president and party candidate for the Srinagar parliamentary constituency Farooq Abdullah during campaigning in the Dal Lake in Srinagar on Tuesday
SAILING SUPPORT: A supporter salutes National Conference president and party candidate for the Srinagar parliamentary constituency Farooq Abdullah during campaigning in the Dal Lake in Srinagar on Tuesday. — PTI

Anantnag
Few takers for ultras’ boycott call

Kulgam, April 28
There may not be many vocal critics of the militants in the Kashmir valley, out of fear or maybe sympathy, but there are not many takers for the poll boycott call given by various militant outfits besides the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). This is especially true of urban areas, which are as normal and peaceful as any other part of India. 

Bathinda
Women power in full bloom

Bathinda, April 28
Fair-sex voters are set to play a major role in Bathinda, where their number is approximately on a par with their male counterparts. Out of the total 13,36,786 voters eligible to exercise their franchise this time, over six lakh (47 per cent) are women.

Karnataka
Former CM takes on arch-rival’s son

Shimoga, April 28
Under ordinary circumstances former Karnataka Chief Minister S Bangarappa would have found the election a cakewalk with his main rival being a young man with no history of contesting in an election.

In picturesque Pahalgam, poll is game of survival 
Pahalgam, April 28
For rest of the country, elections may be a big dance of democracy, but for them, they are key to survival. “Polls symbolise normalcy, which, in turn, means tourists and they are our only source of income,” say residents of picturesque Pahalgam, which falls in the Anantnag parliamentary constituency that goes to polls on April 30.

BIOSCOPE

VOICE OF YOUTH: A young girl during a poll campaign in South Mumbai. — AFP
VOICE OF YOUTH: A young girl during a poll campaign in South Mumbai. — AFP
Lalu Prasad Yadav boards a helicopter as he leaves for electioneering from Patna airport on Tuesday
Lalu Prasad Yadav boards a helicopter as he leaves for electioneering from Patna airport on Tuesday. — PTI

Pollscape

Poll Buzz

Voter’s guide

 





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Uttar Pradesh
Statehood vital issue in backward Bundelkhand
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Jhansi, April 28
The demand for an independent Bundelkhand is the key issue that will decide the four parliamentary seats of development-deprived Bundelkhand region of the state these elections.

Exposing the Mayawati government’s reported rhetoric on granting an independent Bundelkhand is the main plank of Congress candidate from Jhansi Pradeep Jain, alias Aditya, who is in a direct fight against BSP’s Ramesh Kumar Sharma.

“If she had been serious about an independent Bundelkhand she would have passed a resolution to this effect in the Vidhan Sabha and sent it to New Delhi or her MPs should have raised the issue in Parliament,” pointed Jain.

Of Jhansi, Hamirpur, Banda and Jalaun (reserved) constituencies that comprise the Bundelkhand region, Jhansi, Hamirpur and Jalaun will go to the polls on April 30 while Banda has already voted. In 2004, the Samajwadi Party had won three seats of Jhansi, Hamirpur and Banda.

In Jalaun BJP’s Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma is completing his third term and is once again in the fight for the fourth time. He admits that this time the demand for an independent Bundelkahnd is the main issue.

“Our prime ministerial candidate LK Advani while addressing an election rally in my constituency has assured the people that if the NDA is voted to power, Bundelkhand will be created”. Verma’s main contender is BSP’s Tilak Chand Ahirwal.

Interestingly, addressing a rally in support of Ahirwal at Urai on Monday, BSP supremo Mayawati spoke of how she as a “Dalit’s daughter” was highly eligible for the prime minister’s post but completely overlooked the Bundelkhand issue.

The Mayawati government’s Rs 1,514-27 crore Bundelkhand package announced at the Haqiqat Maharally in Jhansi on January 29, 2008, also has not brought the desired results.

The promise of five polytechnics, nine ITIs and an agriculture university in Banda may benefit the region in the long run but right now it has not brought immediate relief to farmers reeling under permanent drought conditions, points out Singh who has been monitoring poll promises of the contestants of the area.

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Main parties test popularity in ‘Mecca of Bihar’
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Kishanganj (Bihar), April 28
Because of its large Muslim population(68 per cent) this Lok Sabha constituency is also referred to as the “Mecca of Bihar” in political circles. Strategically located on theborders of West Bengal, Nepal and Bangladesh, Kishanganj has become a very important Lok Sabha seat for the mainstream political parties. All of them are vying for this seat to test their popularity among Muslims. The seat had its own importance for the BJP for

maintaining its identity as a different party.

No wonder, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had to face stiff resistance from the rank and file of his alliance partner --- the BJP--- in getting this seat for his party,the JD(U), in this election. Apparently,Nitish had his own reasons to put his foot down for Kishanganj. Other than testing the impact of his minority welfare schemes launched in the state, he may also be wanting to test his popularity among Muslims.

The incumbent MP and Union Minister of State, Mohd. Taslimuddin, is in the fray once again as the nominee of the RJD-LJP and SP combine. The Congress has fielded Mohd. Asrarul Haque, a popular leader of

“Surjapuri Muslims” comprising the majority in this area. Syed Ashraf Mahmud from the JD(U) is the NDA candidate.Taslimuddin had won the seat thrice earlier on the basis of the RJD’s strong support base among the Muslims and Yadavs. Besides defeating veteran leader of the Muslims Syed Shahabuddin, he had also defeated Shahnawaj Hussain of the BJP from here in a straight contest.

But with the Congress jumping into the fray after a long gap, the situation appears to be different this time. Besides a generalattraction of Muslim voters towards the Congress in Bihar, the Congress nominee from here also being a religious leader has a large following among his brethren.

This is further vindicated by the votes polled by him (around 2 lakh) in all four Lok Sabha elections he had contested from here earlier as an Independent. Moreover, the profile of the constituency has also changed post delimitation to the disadvantage of Mohd. Taslimuddin. The Jokihaat assembly constituency from where Taslimuddin had been the MLA for six consecutive terms andSikti having substantial votes of Yadavs are no more part of the Kishanganj Lok Sabha constituency.

The JD(U) candidate is also a religious leader from the Surjapuri clan. He seems to be solidly banking upon the 4 lakh Hindu votes as he isofficially supported by the BJP as well. But the staunch BJP activists of Kishanganj were yet to accept him.The RJD candidate, Mohd. Taslimuddin, is also spending a lot of time in the villages having Hindu voters. 

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Ratlam (MP)
BJP, Cong warhorses clash again
Our Roving Editor Man Mohan

Ratlam (MP), April 28
The arrest of a gang of criminals here last week has overshadowed the parliamentary poll campaign in this reserved (ST) constituency. They used to kill the drivers of inter-state taxis.

The arrest of the band of murderers has created so much sensation that people prefer to talk more about the gang’s dare-devil acts and their dozen victims and less about the “poll tamasha” whose outcome, they feel, won’t make a difference in their life. People are paying little attention to the traditional old rivals in the election arena, the BJP’s Dilip Singh Bhuria (63) and the Congress’ Kantilal Bhuria (59). Kantilal is a Union Minister.

Both Bhurias are old warhorses and tribals. Both grew up in the Jhabua area. At one time, Kantilal was known as Dilip Singh’s close confidant. Dilip Singh began his political career with the Congress and represented the erstwhile Jhabua constituency in the Lok Sabha five times, from 1980 to 1996.

In Madhya Pradesh, those days, he belonged to the then Chief Minister Motilal Vora’s camp. Vora is now the treasurer of the All-India Congress Committee in New Delhi.Many people here call Dilip Singh a “turncoat” as he has switched loyalty many times. In 1998, he left the Congress to join the BJP and lost to Kantilal in two successive Lok Sabha elections.

Kantilal has continuously got elected from this constituency three times. In the 2004 elections, the Congress denied the poll ticket to Dilip Singh and fielded Relam Chauhan. Kantilal defeated Chauhan by a margin of 80,000 votes. While Kantilal is looking confident of winning again, Dilip Singh is jittery.

Angry over the denial of the party nomination, Dilip Singh left the BJP in 2004 to start his own regional party. But he soon joined the Congress. Last year, he was, however, back in the BJP. This has not been liked by many local BJP leaders, who feel that his nomination for the election again has blocked their elevation.

Both Bhurias are blaming each other for “no economic development” in the area, although they are the only ones who have been taking turns to represent this Lok Sabha seat.

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‘Tai’ fights to keep Indore key
Our Roving Editor Man Mohan

Indore, April 28
For the first time, six-time winner Bharatiya Janata Party’s Sumitra Mahajan is facing her life’s toughest parliamentary poll in this commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh.

Although the Congress nominee, Satyanarayan Patel, is much younger to her, less experienced and not a political heavyweight, his campaign has created such hype that the ‘‘tai’’, as Mahajan is popularly known, is losing her cool.

At a “Face-to-Face” conference at the Indore Press Club last weekend, both Mahajan and Patel were invited to a debate. A veteran, Mahajan got agitated when she was asked about the role of her son, Milind, in a failed Maharashtra cooperative bank.

When accused of using her influence in preventing Milind’s arrest, Mahajan lost her cool and said this was a baseless allegation. She said her son was only a director in the bank and had nothing to do with various dubious loans that had been given without collateral.

Mahajan emerged on this city’s political horizon in 1989, when, posing as “the bahu of Indore”, she defeated Congress stalwart and Union Minister P C Sethi. Since then, she did not face much problem in winning here.

This time also, internal sabotage by her own saffron party leaders has made the journey to Parliament tough. The BJP-ruled state’s Industry Minister, Kailash Vijayvargiya, and the party MLA from Indore-2, Ramesh Mendola, are said to be working for her defeat.

In the November 2008 assembly poll, it is said, the “tai” had forced Vijayvargiya to shift from the Indore-2 seat to the Mhow seat, and got Mendola the Indore-2 seat, while he was keen to contest from the Indore-3 constituency.

Congress nominee Patel is a sitting MLA from Depalpur. In the 1998 assembly poll, he was elected from the Indore-5 seat. He is accusing Mahajan of failing to bring any concrete Central as well as state government project to this region.

“Indore is growing on its own strength of commercial activities and an IIM is here, but the ‘tai’ cannot take credit for all this,” says Patel observing that “she has reduced herself to merely being a letter writer, shooting memorandums to the Central government for works. “We all know development does not take place through letter writing only.” Mahajan has countered by claiming that she believes in working behind the scenes, pursuing various development projects for Indore’s benefit. If one goes by the media hype and election campaigning, Patel seems to be ahead of Mahajan. “This is because Patel is using the Page Three formula to buy out space in the print and electronic media,” allege her supporters.

Indore is known for “satta” on any subject under the sun. Surprisingly, the players are looking confused, not able to predict which side the wind is going to blow. Old-timers, however, claim that Mahajan, because of her clean image, may manage to win again, but with difficulty.

Patel is telling people that the time has come for the “tai” to give the key of Indore to him “as I am like her son.” In an assertive way, Mahajan has replied that the key was safe with her and the time of the “son” had not yet come. 

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Anantnag
Few takers for ultras’ boycott call
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Kulgam, April 28
There may not be many vocal critics of the militants in the Kashmir valley, out of fear or maybe sympathy, but there are not many takers for the poll boycott call given by various militant outfits besides the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). This is especially true of urban areas, which are as normal and peaceful as any other part of India. Wherever the boycott seems apparent, it is not because people want to abstain from voting, but because of apprehension of being marked.

A number of people told The Tribune, “It is our right to cast our vote. It is nothing short of sin if you let it go waste. Whoever gets the vote is a matter of choice, but there is no doubt about whether to vote or not.” One common answer that comes from most people is “we want roads, schools, hospitals, water and electricity - things only our votes can get”.

In that sense Kashmir is no different from the rest of the country where the elections are being held on the issue of development. The statement of Sajjad Lone, chairman of the People’s Conference, saying, “I have not given up my fight for Kashmir, I have only adopted a different strategy - to raise the issue of Kashmir in Parliament,” has suddenly caught the fancy of many, who do not realise that the gun-wielding ‘jihadis’ can bring no solution to the vexed Kashmir tangle.

In Kulgam district’s Khrewana Chadder village, where on one call of the militants everything closed and people abandoned all commercial activity at 4 pm, shops are open till late. Twentyone-year-old Samir Ahmed Dar, who runs a utensil shop in the Koimu blocks and is also a first-time voter for the parliamentary poll, says, “Most people l know feel that the boycott will not serve any purpose. We have had enough for 20 years - the gun is no solution to anything. Out of the 1,412 votes in my village, at least a thousand will cast their vote.”

Politically well aware, Mohammad Ismail, a 32-year-old carpenter from Naidpur village in the same area, says, “Any solution that comes through a dialogue is acceptable to most people. I boycotted the 2004 poll, but it did not yield anything. At least I now have hope that by using my right to vote, there will be some progress towards finding a solution through talks. One thing is certain that people are fed up of violence and want peace now.”

Caught between the militants and the security forces for two decades, people in most parts of the valley are fed up of “crackdowns” (cordon and search by the Army and paramilitary forces). Boycotts have only seen lack of any development and increased unemployment and poverty, says Mohammad Yusuf (38), like many others from villages like Bhan, Napura, Ghat, etc. The village school at Chadder, built in 1950, remains a middle school till date. Yusuf hopes his vote will be able to get it upgraded to at least the matric level, if not higher secondary.

Apart from the APHC, the boycott call has been given by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and a militant conglomerate, United Jihad Council. Most overground pro-boycott leadership in Kashmir has been put under house arrest, further taking the sting out of the boycott move. Meanwhile, officials have further rubbished reports about the Taliban move to disrupt the Lok Sabha elections.

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Bathinda
Women power in full bloom
Rajay Deep
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 28
Fair-sex voters are set to play a major role in Bathinda, where their number is approximately on a par with their male counterparts. Out of the total 13,36,786 voters eligible to exercise their franchise this time, over six lakh (47 per cent) are women.

Traditionally, in Punjab women don’t contribute much when it comes to politics. But this time, especially with the active participation of female members of both the current and previous ruling families of the state, it is expected that fair sex will play an important role in deciding who will win the high-profile Lok Sabha seat.

The Badal bahu Harsimrat Kaur Badal is taking on Congress’ Raninder Singh. The Bathinda Lok Sabha seat has nine assembly constituencies. In Lambi, the number of male voters is 69,094 and women are 64,467, in Bhucho, the male and female votersare 80,282 and 72,424, respectively and in Bathinda (urban), there are 90,106 male and 81,249 female voters.

In Bathinda (rural), there are 69,317 male and 60,386 male voters, while in Talwandi Sabo, the number of male and female voters is 67,550 and 59,950, respectively. In Maur, there are 72,938 male and 65,261 female voters. In Mansa, while there are 93,872 male voters, the number of females is 84,609. Similarly, the figures for Sardoolgargh and Budhlada are 77, 972 (male) and 71,142 (female) and 82,949 (male) and 73,218 (female), respectively.

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Karnataka
Former CM takes on arch-rival’s son
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Shimoga, April 28
Under ordinary circumstances former Karnataka Chief Minister S Bangarappa would have found the election a cakewalk with his main rival being a young man with no history of contesting in an election.

But the young man happens to be the son of present Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, and this has given the extraordinary touch to the battle of Shimoga. Bangarappa, his feeble health notwithstanding, is working overtime to clinch the prestigious parliamentary segment.

A defeat for 36-year-old Raghavendra, the BJP nominee, means a huge political dent for his father. On the other hand, his victory would signal the end of the road for the septuagenarian Bangarappa who was defeated by Yeddyurappa in a straight fight in Shikaripura in the Assembly elections last year.

Bangarappa, the Congress candidate, had won the Shimoga seat in 2004 as a BJP nominee. He quit the BJP and then won the bypoll as a Samajwadi Party representative. He has, in fact, contested five parliamentary elections as the candidate of five different parties and only once was he defeated. With stakes high, both the parties are trying every trick in the book to impress the electorate.

While the Congress leader and former CM SM Krishna had earlier campaigned in the constituency to mobilise the Vokkaliga votes in favour of the party nominee, former Central minister Margaret Alva turned up at Shimoga today to lend support to Bangarappa.

“Look at the social engineering Bangarappa has been able to carry out here,” she claimed while talking to The Tribune after meeting Bangarappa at his residence. Alva, who earlier met the Christian religious leaders of the constituency, claimed Bangarappa (a member of the backward castes) could mobilise all the backward castes in his favour and had made bridges with other castes and communities in the constituency as well.

The BJP candidate is a Lingayat, who form around 15 per cent of the electorate.

While the BJP candidate is highlighting the airport and software park projects initiated in the area by the BJP government, Bangarappa is concentrating more on issues related to the farmers.

With the BJP candidate being the CM’s son, the issue of use of government machinery to ‘favour’ the BJP nominee has cropped up inevitably. Sources said the election officials have received as many as 41 complaints related to the alleged use of government machinery for BJP’s election campaign. Polling in the constituency will be held on April 30.

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In picturesque Pahalgam, poll is game of survival 
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Pahalgam, April 28
For rest of the country, elections may be a big dance of democracy, but for them, they are key to survival. “Polls symbolise normalcy, which, in turn, means tourists and they are our only source of income,” say residents of picturesque Pahalgam, which falls in the Anantnag parliamentary constituency that goes to polls on April 30.

“We want people to start coming back and we are expecting this to happen now. Paying heed to the election boycott call by the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) means sabotaging your own livelihood,” says Javeed Burza, president of the hoteliers’ association of Pahalgam.

Had it not been the income earned during the annual Amarnath Yatra that enables locals to survive for rest of the year, many would have migrated 
from here.

“Even a small unsubstantiated report of militancy in the area has a dampening effect on the entire city because it has direct impact on tourists who shy away from here. Most of the local hotels have to support a staff of at least 30 to 40 people, season or no-season, in addition to other recurring expenses. We want is that the message of peace and normalcy should go out loud and clear. We have even requested politicians to hold more rallies here,” adds Javeed.

This region is almost at the end of the habitable part of the Anantnag Parliamentary constituency and adjoining it is the Leh Lok Sabha segment. Since, Pahalgam town is in Anantnag district — the home turf of the PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the party candidate Peer Mohammad Hussain has good support behind him. Though, the National Conference has held rallies in the region in favour of its candidate Mehboob Beg, these have remained confined to areas like Ashmuqam and Seer Hamdaan.

Even as the natural beauty of the area attracts tourists, the local are unhappy with the successive governments for ignoring development. There’s practically no power and the local hospital is sans doctors.

The roads are in a deplorable condition. “The entire area remains lifeless, except in June and July, when the Amarnath Yatra is organised,” says Farooq, a guide.

“All we want is that tourism should be revived here. If we are assured that it would be done, we don’t mind walking a few extra miles to ensure heavy turnout at the polling booths,” he adds. His peers Gulam Rasool Bhatt and Mushtaff Ahmed nod in unison.

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Pollscape
Snail mail

BJP candidate from the Shimla Lok Sabha seat Virender Kashyap has a massive job on hand - sending over 1 million postcards to reach out to the electorate in his Himachal Pradesh constituency. At a time when most candidates are wooing voters the Internet way, Kashyap has faith in the written postcards. “In this materialistic world, writing a letter to every voter is the best option to win their hearts. It’s not a one day job… the process (mailing letters) that started more than one month ago, will continue till the voting day,” Kashyap said. “I still have faith in snail mail,” he added. — IANS

Super memory

RJD chief Lalu Prasad does not believe in drawing up election strategies on the laptop. His brain is his supercomputer. The RJD chief and former Bihar Chief Minister relies on his super memory for details of party workers and the constituency. The only gizmo he relies on is his mobile. “Lalu Prasad does not use the latest electronic gadgets like laptops for details of the general election. He is still full of energy and uses his brain like a super computer to recall faces of party leaders and workers from villages and blocks, and their problems,” says his close associate Shayam Rajak. The RJD chief uses his cell phone to remain well informed about the ground reality in the constituencies, he added. — IANS

Extra innings

Cricketer-turned-politician and BJP candidate from East Delhi Chetan Chauhan is doing what he loves the best - play cricket with people of the constituency during his poll campaigns, but taking care to give the right assurances during his speeches. While others leaders are promising the world to their electorate, Chauhan is just being himself. Taking Chauhan’s cricket background a little seriously, some party workers have even weighed him against cricket balls at a few places. While addressing mediapersons recently, Chauhan used all kinds of cricket terminology to slam his opponent - Sandeep Dikshit, son of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. Chauhan said though he had not been able to make a century in Test cricket, he would definitely make a century now and win the elections. — IANS

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Poll Buzz
Jaya Prada booked

RAMPUR: An FIR was registered against Samajwadi Party leader Jaya Prada on Tuesday for allegedly violating model code of conduct by distributing “bindis” during campaigning here, an official said. “An FIR has been lodged against Jaya Prada for violating the model code of conduct,” Swar Subdivisional Magistrate Dharampal Singh said. — PTI

Abhijeet in BJP

MUMBAI: Noted playback singer Abhijeet on Tuesday joined the BJP. “I am joining the BJP because it is an ideological party. It is like a family for me,” Abhijeet, who joined the party in the presence of BJP state president Nitin Gadkari said. Earlier, actress Kirron Kher had joined the party at a function here on April 26. — PTI

EC action

BHUBANESWAR: Taking complaints made by Balangir district officials seriously, the EC on Monday debarred two election observers from the poll process in Orissa, sources said. “Acting on a complaint, the EC has decided to keep the duo away from counting of votes,” Orissa Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Alka Panda said. — PTI

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Voter’s guide

What is the limit for poll expenditure in a parliamentary constituency in bigger states like UP, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and MP?

The limit for expenditure is revised from time to time. At present, it is Rs 25 lakh in the case of bigger states

What is the lowest expenditure limit for a parliamentary constituency at present?

The lowest limit is Rs 10 lakh for Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu and Lakshadweep

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