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Posted at: May 23, 2019, 7:08 AM; last updated: May 23, 2019, 7:08 AM (IST)

Countdown begins for Ambala seat

Fate of 18 candidates to be known today; direct contest between Kataria and Selja
Countdown begins for Ambala seat
Sharandeep Kaur Brar, Returning Officer-cum-Deputy Commissioner, Ambala, presides over a meeting in Ambala on Wednesday. Tribune photo

Nitin Jain
Tribune News Service
Ambala, May 22

Amid apprehensions that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) could be tampered with and opposition parties keeping a strict vigil at strong rooms where EVMs are stored, all arrangements are in place for counting of votes polled for the Ambala Lok Sabha constituency at 9 centres spread across 3 districts - Ambala, Panchkula and Yamunanagar - on Thursday.

Two sitting MPs - Rattan Lal Kataria of the BJP and Kumari Selja of the Congress - are among the 18 candidates in Ambala whose fate would be known on Thursday when the counting of votes gets underway at 9 centres spread over as many locations here.

Polling to this reserved Lok Sabha seat was held on May 12.

Returning Officer-cum-Deputy Commissioner Sharandeep Kaur Brar said the counting of votes would begin at 8 am. She presided over the second and the final randomisation of the counting staff in the presence of election observers here today.

Ambala Superintendent of Police (SP) Mohit Handa said a three-tier security arrangement has been put in place at the counting centres, with the deployment of paramilitary forces and state police personnel.

The voter turnout in Ambala was 71.11 per cent, almost 1 per cent lower than 72.09 per cent recorded during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. A total of 13,13,315 of the total 18,46,727 voters exercised their franchise to elect Member of Parliament from the Ambala (Reserved) Lok Sabha constituency. This turnout comprised 53.88 per cent male and 46.12 per cent female electorates. Besides, 2 of the total 30 transgender also cast their vote. Both these transgender votes were polled in the Kalka Assembly segment, while no other Assembly segment reported any transgender polling.

Ambala has 9 Assembly segments spread across 3 districts. Votes will be counted from 2,045 EVMs and 14 tables have been placed at each counting centres for this purpose at 9 counting centres, Brar disclosed. One table in each row has been put for the counting observer.

In Ambala, BJP’s two-time sitting MP Kataria is seeking re-election against Congress nominee sitting Rajya Sabha MP and former Union Minister Kumari Selja, who had trounced him twice consecutively in 2009 and 2004. Both Kataria and Selja had represented the seat twice. Selja is the lone woman candidate who had become the Ambala MP so far. This time also, she is the only woman candidate in the fray.

The poll outcome will decide whether the BJP, which had won all 9 Assembly segments in this constituency in the 2014 Vidhan Sabha elections, would be able to retain the seat, which Kataria had won to make his comeback in 2014 with a record victory margin of over 3.4 lakh votes or Selja, who had opted out of the fray in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, manages to make the comeback.

Both candidates had put in their best and are locked in a fierce direct contest while facing each other for the third time here. With both Kataria and Selja exuding confidence of their victory, who wins the seat will be known tomorrow.

Congress on alert, BJP remains optimistic

Despite the Election Commission (EC) repeatedly allaying apprehensions on this count, dismissing all reports of EVM manipulation, workers of the opposition parties are putting up 24x7 vigil outside the counting centres where the sealed EVMs had been stored under strong guard. The Congress candidate had urged the party workers to keep faith in the party and asked them to remain vigilant. “Remain alert and vigilant. You are fighting for truth. Don’t get disheartened by the false exit polls. Have faith on yourself and the party. Your efforts will not go in vain,” she told the activists.

On the other hand, the BJP MP said the opposition parties were seeking excuses in the face of their imminent defeat and raising doubts over EVMs. “When they see their defeat is imminent, they raise doubts over EVMs, but when they won in three states, they didn’t say anything about EVMs,” Kataria said, adding that “Why did they not raise doubts after they won in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Punjab?” He said the opposition was making “needless controversy” over EVMs, which he claimed were foolproof.

Candidates in fray

The candidates in the poll fray in Ambala included sitting MP Rattan Lal Kataria of the BJP, sitting Rajya Sabha MP Kumari Selja of the Congress, Ram Pal of the INLD, Naresh Kumar of the BSP, Prithvi Raj of the AAP, Arun Kumar of the CPI, Anil Kumar of the Bharatiya Republican Party (A), Suraj Kumar of the Bahujan Mukti Party, Sandeep Singh of the Aapki Apni Party (Peoples), Suraj Bhan Narwal of the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia), Puran Chand of the Rashtriya Lok Samaj Party, Varun Kumar of the Peoples Party of India (Democratic), Rajinder Kumar of the Bharatiya Shakti Chetna Party and independents Jatinder Singh, Ranjit Singh, Mam Chand, Rattan Lal and Suraj Bhan.

9 counting centres set up

Nine counting centres have been set up for the counting of votes in the Ambala Lok Sabha constituency. Of the total 9 counting centres, Government Girls College in Sector 14, Panchkula, will be the counting centre for Kalka Assembly segment, Government Postgraduate College, Sector 1, Panchkula, for the Panchkula Assembly segment, BPS Polytechnic, Ambala Cantonment, for Naraingarh, SD College, Ambala Cantonment, for the Ambala Cantonment Vidhan Sabha segment, OPS Vidya Mandir School, Ambala City, for the Ambala City segment, DAV River Side Public School, Ambala Cantonment, for Mullana, Saraswati Vidya Mandi, Jagadhari, for Sadhaura, Hindu Girls College, Jagadhari, for the Jagadhari segment and DAV Senior Secondary School, Yamunanagar, will be the counting centre for the votes polled in the Yamunanagar Assembly segment.

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