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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

Baramulla
Bigwigs enthuse voters

Baramulla/Kupwara, May 13
Ladakhi monks wait outside a polling station to cast their votes in a village in Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday. How good a fight separatist-turned-mainstream politician, Sajjad Lone, has put up in Baramulla constituency may be known only on May 16

Ladakhi monks wait outside a polling station to cast their votes in a village in Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday. — AFP

Punjab
Polling over, power cuts haunt common man
Bathinda, May 13
A security man stands guard as electors await their turn to vote at a booth in Jalandhar.Now that polling for Lok Sabha elections in Punjab is over, the fear of long power cuts returning after the counting of votes haunts residents of urban and rural areas.

A security man stands guard as electors await their turn to vote at a booth in Jalandhar. — PTI



Pollspeak

I am not finding fault with Kumaraswamy for not informing me or taking my consent to meet Sonia Gandhi. As I have been down with fever and away at Hassan, my son could not contact me. Don’t forget, he was the state Chief Minister and is the party’s state president
— JD (S) supremo HD Deve Gowda

It is good that the Congress has realised that the Left parties are part of the secular grouping. The Congress has started having a realistic approach. It is a good sign
— NCP chief 
Sharad Pawar

I’ll not quit politics even if I lose: Jaya Prada
Rampur (UP), May 13
In the eye of an increasingly ugly political storm, Samajwadi Party's (SP) actor-turned-politician Jaya Prada said today that she would not quit politics even if she lost the election.

TN: 65 pc
Tech snags, minor clashes mark day

Chennai, May 13
About 65 per cent of the electors in Tamil Nadu exercised their franchise, according to a preliminary assessment of the Election Commission and voting was brisk and peaceful, barring a few places where violent incidents were witnessed.

West Bengal: 75 pc
Some hiccups, but overall polling peaceful

Kolkata, May 13
The third and final phase of the Lok Sabha poll in 11 of the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal today saw a voter turnout of nearly 75 per cent and barring few minor incidents, the day, by and large, passed off peacefully.

Enthusiastic Kolkatans throng booths
A security personnel guards a polling station in Kolkata on Wednesday.Kolkata, May 13
An elderly woman in a wheelchair, a patient laid up on a stretcher, a middle-aged man carrying his octogenarian mother...They were among Kolkata residents who voted in right earnest in the Lok Sabha polls Wednesday.



A security personnel guards a polling station in Kolkata on Wednesday. — AFP

In UP, Pilibhit records highest voting percentage
Lucknow, May 13
Pilibhit which remained in the news throughout the long drawn election campaign, thanks to its BJP candidate Varun Gandhi’s hate speeches and subsequent action, today registered 64.5 per cent polling- the highest in the entire state for all the phases.

Divided by years, even opinion, but not polls apart
Tale of two voters: Naveen S Grewal talks to Sohan Singh, octogenarian father of slain Babbar Khalsa militant Balwinder Singh Jatana, in Anandpur Sahib and Sukhpreet Kaur, a first-time voter and niece of the MLA from Samrala, in Fatehgarh Sahib to gauge their faith in democracy

Pollscape

Poll Buzz

STAR PARIVAR
Actor Rajnikanth’s wife Latha Rajinikanth and their daughter Saundarya show the ink mark on their fingers as they leave after casting their votes in Chennai on Wednesday.
Actor Rajnikanth’s wife Latha Rajinikanth and their daughter Saundarya show the ink mark on their fingers as they leave after casting their votes in Chennai on Wednesday. — PTI
DMK leader MK Stalin’s wife Durga Stalin casts her vote at a booth in Chennai on Wednesday.
DMK leader MK Stalin’s wife Durga Stalin casts her vote at a booth in Chennai on Wednesday. — PTI
Congress candidate Mohd Azharuddin’s wife Sangeeta Bijlani outside a polling booth in Moradabad.
Congress candidate Mohd Azharuddin’s wife Sangeeta Bijlani outside a polling booth in Moradabad. — PTI

Bioscope

A burqa-clad woman holds her voter identity card in a queue at a polling booth in Kolkata on Wednesday.
A burqa-clad woman holds her voter identity card in a queue at a polling booth in Kolkata on Wednesday. — AFP
Tribal women after casting their votes in Hikkim village in the northern district of Lahaul & Spiti in Himachal Pradesh on Wednesday.
Tribal women after casting their votes in Hikkim village in the northern district of Lahaul & Spiti in Himachal Pradesh on Wednesday. — AFP

 

 





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Baramulla
Bigwigs enthuse voters
Kumar Rakesh
Tribune News Service

Baramulla/Kupwara, May 13
How good a fight separatist-turned-mainstream politician, Sajjad Lone, has put up in Baramulla constituency may be known only on May 16, when the counting of votes begin, but his presence certainly stirred the electorate to come out in large numbers to exercise their franchise.

A keen triangular fight in the constituency between the NC and PDP contestants besides Lone meant supporters of these candidates, who enjoy solid vote banks in their respective segments, made a determined bid to elect their leader to the Parliament. Brisk polling was seen in the Kupwara district, where Lone family wields major influence.

The general disinterest shown by the voters in previous two phases seemed distant as large queues could be seen at most places barring separatist hotbeds like Sopore and Baramulla towns. “I had lot of respect for Sajjad’s father Lone Sahab (Abdul Gani Lone). His son is a strong boy and I want him to win,” Majid Sheikh, an octogenarian voter, said at a booth in Handwara.

Kupwara district has been traditionally notching up the highest polling percentage in the Valley, and the fact that NC candidate Sharief-ud-Din Shariq and Lone hail from here brought many more voters than the previous election in 2004. “Chowdhary Ramzan, a senior NC leader and local MLA, has done a lot of work in the area. So, we want to ensure NC’s victory,” a group of youths lined up outside a booth in Handwara town said. Many booths like this one located in Boys’ Higher Secondary School had recorded over 55 per cent polling by 2 pm.

Another booth in Handwara located in a girls’ school saw Lone and Chowdhary Ramzan coming to cast their vote, much to the joy of their supporters.

At some distance in Rafiabad, which was represented in the Assembly by PDP candidate Dilawar Mir for several times before he suffered a shock defeat by a young NC leader in the previous election, party supporters chanted slogans and urged locals to cast their votes. “It’s a close fight. Every vote counts,” Mohammad Aslam, a PDP worker, said.

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Punjab
Polling over, power cuts haunt common man
SP Sharma
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 13
Now that polling for Lok Sabha elections in Punjab is over, the fear of long power cuts returning after the counting of votes haunts residents of urban and rural areas. In fact, the common man these days is discussing whether the luxury of regular power supply enjoyed during electioneering will discontinue after the declaration of results on May 16.

People of this part of Punjab take with a pinch of salt the government claim of uninterrupted power supply even after the results are declared. Not only here, people in other parts of the state for over a month had uninterrupted power supply that they had earlier enjoyed only on the day Sukhbir Singh Badal was inducted Deputy Chief Minister.

With the mercury rising, short-duration cuts have already begun, particularly in rural areas that have made people sceptical of the things to come. Punjab is far short in generating power to meet demand of the state and is dependent on other sources.

However, Congress Campaign in charge Amarinder Singh in his election rallies was stressing that uninterrupted power supply was an election strategy of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and things would return to the square one with 8 to 10-hour-long power cuts after the counting of votes.

Shortly before the announcement of elections, the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) had ordered 24-hour electric supply for Bathinda and other towns where thermal power stations are located. Before that, residents of Bathinda faced frequent power cuts coupled with high pollution of fly ash from chimneys of outdated thermal station.

Chairman, PSEB, HS Brar said, “Uninterrupted power supply is in no way connected with the ongoing elections. We have tied up with various sources for making adequate electricity available to the state even after the elections to meet peak demand in summer”.

Brar clarified that breakdowns occur to save the power system from collapse when there is extra load.

Abohar: Though members of the SAD-BJP alliance, including the CM and the Deputy CM, had announced 24-hour electricity supply before the day of notification of the election schedule, PSEB officials were prompt to inform the small-scale units through the media not to expect any relief during the peak hours and weekly off schedule.

Sudesh Setia, a merchant at Dhrangwala village of Balluana, says the PSEB had restored power cuts a few hours after the polling was over on May 7. This has hit sale of soft drinks as refrigerators and deep freezers are not operating properly.

Ferozepur, Fazilka: The power scenario in rural areas of this border belt has started worsening, while consumers in urban areas are apprehensive of more power cuts after the final round of Lok Sabha polls.

A majority of the farmers and domestic consumers in border villages who are dependent on agriculture claim power supply was better than previous years till May 7 when polling for this constituency was held. More power is needed at the time of transplantation of paddy.

(With inputs from Rajay Deep, Raj Sadosh, Anirudh Gupta and Parful Nagpal)

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I’ll not quit politics even if I lose: Jaya Prada

Rampur (UP), May 13
In the eye of an increasingly ugly political storm, Samajwadi Party's (SP) actor-turned-politician Jaya Prada said today that she would not quit politics even if she lost the election.

"I want to make it clear that under no circumstances will I leave politics even if I suffer a defeat," Jaya Prada told reporters in this parliamentary constituency, about 200 km from state capital Lucknow.

Accusing senior SP leader Azam Khan of hatching a political conspiracy against her, she said he had been making every attempt to see her defeated. And for this he had even supported her rival and Congress candidate Begum Noor Bano.

She alleged that Azam Khan --- who had fallen out with the SP leadership after the party joined hands with BJP rebel Kalyan Singh and was seen to be working against Jaya Prada --- had distributed obscene posters and CDs on her in the constituency to malign her image.

"It was part of Azam's political conspiracy.... It depressed me and even made me think of committing suicide. However, with the support of my family I overcame the depression and decided to give a befitting reply to Azam by winning the election."

Asked what action should the party take against Azam Khan, Jaya Prada said: "This decision must be left to senior party functionaries."On Sunday, Amar Singh had said at an election rally that Jaya Prada --- who had got leading Bollywood actors to campaign for her - could commit suicide in case she was defeated. — PTI

It’s a drama, says Azam Khan

SP leader Azam Khan today described party candidate Jaya Prada’s allegations against him of sabotaging her poll prospects with “morphed” CDs as a “political drama” and said film stars were capable of changing their colours quite often. “This is a political drama being played out by film stars. Those in the celluloid world are known to change their colours according to the role they played out,” Khan said, in reply to charges made against him by Jaya Prada. — PTI

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TN: 65 pc
Tech snags, minor clashes mark day
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, May 13
About 65 per cent of the electors in Tamil Nadu exercised their franchise, according to a preliminary assessment of the Election Commission and voting was brisk and peaceful, barring a few places where violent incidents were witnessed.

AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa alleged booth capturing and sabotage of electronic machines in a few booths in Central Chennai, where DMK workers clashed with the cadres of the Manitheya Makkal Katchi, a Muslim outfit. Incidents of violence were reported from Dindigul, Madurai and Cuddalore and voting was delayed for more than an hour in about 50 booths in the city due to the malfunctioning of EVMs.

Voters queued up in large numbers and serpentine lines were seen in front of many polling booths even before the clock struck 8 and voting was brisk before the closing of the polls.

The polling was dull in the afternoon due to the scorching heat.

Speaking to reporters after voting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK president M Karunanidhi said the Congress-led UPA would form the government at the Centre after the Lok Sabha poll. Karunanidhi, who came to the booth around 9 am, said, “It will be again a Congress-led government at the Centre.”

AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa, after voting, complained about the “manipulation” of electronic voting machines across Tamil Nadu and “bogus voting” in the Central Chennai constituency.

While Tamil superstar Rajinikanth cast his vote, another star, Kamal Hassan, was not able to vote since his name had been deleted from the voters' list.

State Chief Electoral Officer Naresh Gupta refrained from commenting on allegations that money was distributed among voters during the nearly three-hour “power cut” in some parts of Chennai last night. Chennai Corporation Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni said the technical snag in voting machines was rectified immediately.

Director-General of Police K P Jain said the polling took place peacefully with no law and order problems in any part of the state.

After visiting a polling booth with Police Commissioner K Radhakrishnan, he said: "The situation is under control and no untoward incident has been reported across the state". He said a CB-CID inquiry had been ordered into the power cut last night.

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West Bengal: 75 pc
Some hiccups, but overall polling peaceful
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, May 13
The third and final phase of the Lok Sabha poll in 11 of the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal today saw a voter turnout of nearly 75 per cent and barring few minor incidents, the day, by and large, passed off peacefully.

State chief electoral officer Debasish Sen said brisk polling was reported towards the end. Sen said in some areas where elections could not be conducted, following problems in EVMs, the re-polling would be held tomorrow and the EC was finalising the list of the booths after getting reports from the observers.

The fate of 100 candidates, including that of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata South, former Union Minister and BJP candidate Tapan Sikdar in Dum Dum and CPM candidate Amitava Nandy in the same seat were sealed in EVMs.

Veteran Jyoti Basu could not exercise his franchise for the first time today since 1952 because he fell down from his bed in the morning and had to be hospitalised.

According to the PTI, a CPM local leader was shot dead allegedly by Trinamool Congress supporters in Joynagar (SC) Lok Sabha constituency in South 24-Parganas district, while 14 persons were injured in clashes in North 24-Parganas and South 24-Parganas districts.

The police said Zainal Mollah was shot at Narayanpur in South 24-Parganas district and succumbed to injuries in hospital.

A voter was killed and two others injured when a vehicle carrying polling personnel, ploughed through them at Kalyani in Nadia district, the CEO said.

Meanwhile, alleging that the CPM resorted to rigging, terror tactics and false voting in many constituencies, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee said, “We are grateful to the people because they resisted the rigging and terror by the CPM and voted.” She alleged that her party general secretary Mukul Roy was attacked while “Marxists goons opened fire at Joynagar and Halisahar.”

Meanwhile, Left Front chairman Biman Bose rubbished Trinamool Congress' allegations of rigging by CPM cadre and said Mamta Banerjee suffers from rigging phobia. 

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Enthusiastic Kolkatans throng booths

Kolkata, May 13
An elderly woman in a wheelchair, a patient laid up on a stretcher, a middle-aged man carrying his octogenarian mother...They were among Kolkata residents who voted in right earnest in the Lok Sabha polls Wednesday.

Paramilitary personnel stood guard at all voting stations in the metropolis where every booth had been declared sensitive, but polling was peaceful.

”Voting is peaceful so far. There have been no major or minor incidents yet,” Jawed Shamim, Deputy Commissioner (detective department) of city police, told IANS.Polling booths were crowded at around 8 am, one hour after voting started for the five parliamentary constituencies in and around Kolkata --- Jadavpur, Barashat, Dum Dum, Kolkata South and Kolkata North. Over 6.6 million people were eligible to vote.

“We went to cast our vote early to avoid long queues,” said Rathin Banerjee, who came with his family to cast his vote in a booth at Ballygunge under the Kolkata South constituency where Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee is a heavyweight candidate.It was a pleasant day in Kolkata with 
Tuesday’s blinding rains having brought down the soaring temperatures.

After spending weeks on gruelling campaigns to woo the electorate, it was time for the city's political VIPs to vote themselves.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, and Communist Party of India-Marxist leaders members Brinda Karat and Biman Bose cast their votes in the first half of the day.

After coming out of the booth, Karat said: "This is a very good trend that people are coming out in numbers in the morning to vote."

Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee was busy at her ‘election control room’ in Kalighat. Her aides were seen coming in and out of the room as complaints poured in from her party candidates. Allegations and counter-allegations of bogus voting and intimidation have continued to fly since morning.Tension prevailed in many pockets. Trinamool Congress nominee from Kolkata North Sudip Bandopadhyay reportedly had altercations with CPM activists twice, but police intervened to defuse the situation.

Many first time voters also exercised their franchise.

A homemaker, Latika Ghosh, who came with two of her sisters-in-law to vote at a Tollygunge booth under the Jadavpur seat, said: “We have come early as we have to do our household chores once we return. It is a holiday for our husbands. We will have a feast.” — IANS

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In UP, Pilibhit records highest voting percentage
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, May 13
Pilibhit which remained in the news throughout the long drawn election campaign, thanks to its BJP candidate Varun Gandhi’s hate speeches and subsequent action, today registered 64.5 per cent polling- the highest in the entire state for all the phases.

With an event-free final phase of polling for the 14 seats concluding today the massive exercise to elect 80 representatives to the Lok Sabha spread over five phases in the state finally came to an end.

According to the Chief Electoral Officer A.K. Bishnoi the state today registered an overall 52.7 percent polling which may go up to 54 percent. This is a drop from the overall percentage (54.3) for the same seats in 2004. Even during the 2007 assembly election the polling percentage for roughly these seats was 57.7 per cent.

While Pilibhit registered the highest voter turnout the lowest (47) per cent votes was witnessed at mother Maneka Gandhi’s constituency of Aonla next door. However the overall lowest percentage in the entire five phases was seen in capital Lucknow during the third phase on April 30 when only 34.5 per cent voters braved the scorching heat to come out and vote.

In Bijnore, a bizarre incident was reported today at polling station no 239 under Haldaur police station when a mentally unstable person Bijendra smashed the EVM machine by dropping it on the floor. He was immediately arrested.

Six personnel on poll duty in Shahjehanpur were injured when the truck carrying them to their respective areas of duty lost control and hit a tree. News of boycotting of elections was also reported from four places in Rampur and six in Shahjehanpur.

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Divided by years, even opinion, but not polls apart
Tale of two voters: Naveen S Grewal talks to Sohan Singh, octogenarian father of slain Babbar Khalsa militant Balwinder Singh Jatana, in Anandpur Sahib and Sukhpreet Kaur, a first-time voter and niece of the MLA from Samrala, in Fatehgarh Sahib to gauge their faith in democracy

Sohan SinghName: Sohan Singh
Age: 80
Village: Jatana, 5 km from Chamkaur Sahib
Occupation: Carpenter
His son Balwinder Singh Jatana was killed by the police during the days of militancy in Punjab

How his day started

Sohan Singh woke up today like everyday at 6 am and started his day with prayers for his son and four other family members, including mother, who were killed in the hay days of militancy by the police. Goes to his field to feed his buffalos before coming to vote

Was he looking forward to cast his vote?

Yes. He said: “I have realised that the solution to any problem comes from dialogue and not the barrel of the gun. I have lost my entire family, my son, mother and many more to bullets fired by the police. I want there should be an elected representative who can hear our grievances and help us resolve them to avoid people taking to the gun.

Has his life changed from the days of militancy?

Earlier, I was picked up by the Punjab police and taken from one police station to another and tortured to reveal the whereabouts of my son. However, now no one bothers me. I wake up and sleep as I want.

Is he voting for a party or a candidate?

Every political party has distanced itself from him because he is the father of a “once dreaded militant”. But for the first time, the SAD personally came to seek his vote. So, he has decided to oblige the “panthic” candidate.

Lucky to be alive

“I consider myself lucky to be alive and around to cast my vote,” he says. “The day four members of my family were killed and my house set on fire, I was in police station detained for questioning about an attack on a police officer. “If I were home, I too would have been killed along with others,” he said.

Sukhpreet KaurName: Sukhpreet Kaur
Age
: 20
Village
: Khirnia, 3 km from Samrala town
Occupation
: BA (II year) student at GGS Khalsa College

She is a first-time voter, but not enthusiastic about casting her vote, because she feels politicians don’t work for people. How her day started

Sukhpreet, niece of Samrala MLA Jagjiwan Singh Khirnia, has no excitement about being a first time voter. “Politicians don’t do anything for the people. All talk about development is humbug. But since it is polling day and I belong to a political family, I have no choice but to come and vote for the SAD candidate.”

Was she looking forward to cast her vote?

No. Not really. “I have come to the polling station with my grandfather twice. But I don’t think my vote will make any difference in anything around us. There have been no power cuts till now, but after the voting today, I expect long power shutdowns.”

Will your vote matter?

“I don’t think so. The politicians never do anything for anyone. I don’t expect my vote can bring employment or development to the area.”

Why is she so cynical?

“No one has done anything for the youth, there are no jobs, inflation is up. The only thing that has happened here is some improvement in roads and streets of the village. But other than that there is no improvement in the lives of the people.”

Which party will you vote for and why?

As I said, I belong to a political family and I have come with my mother to vote for the SAD candidate. We cannot even think of voting for anyone else, though I also think that the Akali party is better than other parties.

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Pollscape
Media shy ‘behenji’

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati continues to shun the media as much as she avoids any direct contact with the public. A leading media baron-cum-celebrated journalist moved heaven and earth to get an appointment with Mayawati but to no avail. While every other political neta was more than ready to spend quality time with the renowned journalist, Mayawati not only refused to give an interview but also declined to meet him for a few minutes at the venue of one of her rallies in Uttar Pradesh. “She feels that if she meets one journalist, others would feel discriminated against,” was the curt reply of a member of her inner coterie. — IANS

‘Omkara’ land

For those living in the badlands of western Uttar Pradesh, it was a big surprise when the polls went off peacefully on Wednesday contrary to the volatile image of the region that was the backdrop for the film “Omkara”. “It is one of the most peaceful Lok Sabha elections that we have witnessed. We were all very surprised,” said Mohammed Umar, a local businessman, who lives in Rampur. There were long lines of people lining up to vote in the constituency. Violence had been feared in Rampur, which has been in the news for the wrong reasons. — IANS

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Poll Buzz
Party money returned

BHOPAL: Meenakshi Natarajan, Congress candidate from Mandsaur for the current Lok Sabha elections in Madhya Pradesh, has set an example for other nominees by returning Rs 20 lakh to the party as it was left after all the expenditure on her electioneering. “This is the first case that any candidate from Madhya Pradesh has returned the balance money to the party,” Congress sources said here on Wednesday. Party high command had allotted a sum of more than Rs 75 lakh, including Rs 25 lakh, as declared fund to 28 candidates each for the parliamentary elections, they said. — PTI

Losing interest

THRISSUR: Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Vayalar Ravi on Wednesday attributed decline in poll percentage in the Lok Sabha elections to the “indifference” among the middle-class and youth. Inaugurating the yearlong birth centenary celebrations of veteran freedom fighter and Congress leader VR Krishnan Ezhuthachan, he said this indifference did not augur well for a healthy democracy and the country’s stability and economic growth. — PTI

No-vote option

CHENNAI: Nearly 100 persons “affected” by the land acquisition made for expansion of the Chennai airport on Wednesday recorded their protest by making use of a relevant section in the election procedure 49 (0) - not casting vote for any particular candidate - during the Lok Sabha elections held here on Wednesday. S Karthikeyan, a resident of Tharapakkam, one of the areas which has been earmarked for land acquisition for the project, said he and the other protesters preferred not to vote “to express anger against the government.” — PTI

Courageous act

MOGA: The Dalit woman who was raped and was admitted in the local Civil Hospital since May 8 was allowed to cast her vote in her native village Ghalkalan on Wednesday. At the intervention of Punjab State Scheduled Caste Commission member Dalip Singh Pandhi, the woman was taken by the police from the hospital to Ghalkalan and after exercising vote there she was again taken back to hospital. — PTI

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