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57% voter turnout in four states

Source: PTI
Last updated on: December 02, 2003 05:20 IST
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An estimated 57 per cent of the 9.34 crore electorate cast their votes in the assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi on Monday in a poll considered as the 'semi-finals' before the next Lok Sabha elections.

The polling was marred by violence in Madhya Pradesh where six persons were killed and more than 24 wounded in Bhind district in the dacoit-infested Chambal region while poll-related communal clashes and arson broke out in Indore prompting imposition of curfew.

Rajasthan recorded the highest voter turnout of 63 per cent while cosmopolitan Delhi registered the lowest 48-50 per cent. Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh recorded identical polling of about 60 per cent.

The Election Commission ordered repolling in 70 polling stations on December 3 in Madhya Pradesh (23), Rajasthan (12) and Chhattisgarh (35) where the process was disrupted due to various reasons, including snatching of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) by Naxalites, who had given a poll boycott call, in Bijapur constituency in Bastar district.

Over 400,000 police and paramilitary personnel stood guard at 120,000 lakh polling stations to ensure peaceful voting for 590 seats.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and chief ministers Digvijay Singh (MP), Ajit Jogi (Chhattisgarh), Ashok Gehlot (Rajasthan), Sheila Dikshit (Delhi) were among the early voters.

"We are expecting good results. But we will have to wait till December 4 [when counting is held]," she said at the Nirman Bhavan polling station.

Among the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders who exercised their franchise were chief ministerial candidates Madan Lal Khurana (Delhi), Vasundhara Raje (Rajasthan) and Umar Bharti (MP).

While polling in naxal-infested districts of Chhattisgarh, where insurgents gave a boycott call, was subdued, in other areas, long queues were seen outside booths.

Cadres of the outlawed People's War took hostage election staff at Cherkanthi and Reddy polling booths in Bijapur assembly constituency of Dantewada district while one person was injured when ultras opened fire at voters in Sarguja district.

About half-a-dozen persons including a police official were injured in poll-related violence in MP, where re-polling was ordered in three stations of Bandawar constituency of Dhar district.

Reports of damage to electronic voting machines were received from some places in Dhar and Shivpuri districts.

Re-polling was being considered for nine stations in Rajasthan following incidents of damage to EVMs.

Deputy Election Commissioner A N Jha said stray incidents of violence and booth capturing were reported from Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan but Delhi remained by and large peaceful.

In MP, there were 23 cases of disruption of polls due to booth capturing and attempts to damage EVMs, he said, adding these cases were reported from Morena, Sagar, Dhar, Tikangarh and Satna.

The elections mark the culmination of an acrimonious fortnight-long campaign focusing, among other things, on the bribery allegations involving BJP leader Dilip Singh Judeo.

The outcome of the polls, fought primarily on local issues, could determine the timing of the Lok Sabha elections.

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