POLLING FOR the Pandhana by-elections passed off peacefully on Monday with around 54.68 per cent of the electorate exercising their franchise.
The fate of the five candidates in fray - Devendra Verma (BJP), Hiralal Silawat (Congress), Vasudev Atut (Bharatiya Janshakti), Navneet Gajbheye (GGP) and independent candidate Uma Shankar Verma - would be revealed on December 7, the day of counting. Results are expected to be announced on the same day.
On a relatively warm day for December, polling started on a steady note and by 10.30 am around 15 per cent of the votes had been polled. The figure crept up to 30 per cent by noon and 45 per cent by 3.30 pm.
The Election Commission was extra cautious this time, especially after allegations of bogus voting were levelled by both the Congress and Bharatiya Janshakti during the recently held Vidisha and Bara Malhera by-polls. There was heavy security in all booths with gun-toting CRPF jawans present at all sensitive ones.
There was strict checking of all four-wheelers within the constituency as Returning Officer Nikunj Shrivstava had placed a ban on their entry since Saturday night. All BJP ministers, who had been camping in the constituency for the past week or so, had been directed to stay away from the constituency and were cooped up in Khandwa for most of day.
Thanks to strict checking, there were very few four-wheelers on the roads, and the very few that were there were subjected to repeated checking and questioning.
At least 10 Congress workers were stopped at Pandhana while they were travelling in a vehicle towards a polling booth in the morning. They were released later in the evening.
Many shopkeepers, especially in the Pandhana area, had not opened their establishments due to the polling, but in other areas like Chegaon Makhan, Barud, Dular Phata and Ahmedpur-Khegaon etc business was normal.
Apart from some stray complaints by voters of their names not being on the rolls, some of the voters in Pandhana (booth No 142) had to face problems as the Pandhana Nagar Panchayat had taken their ration cards to issues new ones and had not returned them, as a result of which many did not have any identity cards to cast their votes. Polling agents of the three main parties –BJP, Congress and BJ - were present in all booths, but while BJP and Congress workers could be seen milling around their respective booth offices, there were very few booth offices of the BJ.
District Collector and returning officer Nikunj Shrivastava told Hindustan Times that the polls were absolutely free and fair. The EC observers were satisfied and had given the administration a clean chit. He said that the major political parties were also satisfied with the fairness of the elections. He said no arrests had been made during the course of the day.
SP K D Parashar said that he had received no reports of any violence from any part of the constituency. There were 60 mobile units covering the 191 polling booths throughout the day and even the smallest of complaints had been looked into.