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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

Women take driver's seat as Chandigarh breaks voting record

IANS   Chandigarh, April 13, 2014
First Published: 15:06 IST(13/4/2014) | Last Updated: 15:10 IST(13/4/2014)

When Chandigarh broke all its previous highs of voting for parliament this Thursday, it was women from the city who led from the front.

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The union territory, which has only one Lok Sabha seat, voted to a new high of nearly 74 per cent.

As per the latest figures, 74.15 per cent women voters - 208,413 out of 28,1051 registered voters - came out to vote. Compared to this, men voters fell short by a slender margin, registering a figure of 73.57 per cent. Out of the 332,888 registered men voters, 244,901 voted.

"Call it `women empowerment' or the attraction of glamour and celebrity women in the fray, Chandigarh's women voters have come out in full force. It is a good sign for democracy here. It could be a vote for change," Meenakshi Sharma, a young housewife in Sector 18, told IANS.

Pitted against the sitting MP and Congress leader Pawan Kumar Bansal were three women candidates - Kirron Kher (BJP), Gulkirat Kaur Panag (Gul Panag) of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Jannat Jahan-ul-Haq (Bahujan Samaj Party). This is the first time in Chandigarh that three women candidates from main political parties were in the fray.

Two of these main candidates, Kirron Kher and Gul Panag, are actresses from Mumbai's film and TV industry. While Gul is a former Miss India (1999), Kher is the wife of actor Anupam Kher. Both ladies, who battled the `outsider' tag, had earlier lived and studied in Chandigarh.

The overall voting percentage recorded in Chandigarh, 73.84 per cent, as per the final figures released by the Election department. The previous high for Chandigarh was 68.1 percent polling in the 1984 general election. At that time too, 68.5 percent women had  voted.

In the 2009 general election, just over 65 per cent of Chandigarh had voted. In 2004, Chandigarh's voting was a dismal 51 per cent.

The city's all-time lowest turnout was in the 1999 election at just 48.35 per cent.

Some believe that the voting percentage could have been higher this time if a number of names had not been deleted.

"I went to the polling station with a valid election ID card but found that my name was deleted from the voters' list. I was so upset. The officials did little to help," Reetika Khanna, a school teacher, told IANS.

While the colonies and villages voted heavily, some of  them registering 75-85 percent voting, voters in Chandigarh's urban areas too came out in good numbers.

Chandigarh's VIP sector, comprising 1 to 12 sectors, which did not vote much in the past, too returned with impressive voting figure of over 70 percent.

Chandigarh's southern sectors, from 32 to 49, which had over 90,000 registered voters, could not maintain the high voting percentage. Here, the polling was around 65 to 69 percent. In one polling booth in Sector 45, the polling was just about 30 percent.

"We did our best to make people aware about voting and the results are encouraging with this high turnout," Chandigarh's returning officer Mohammed Shayin said.

Actress Gul Panag, the AAP candidate from Chandigarh, has got a TVS moped as also a Hero Honda bike, along with a Scorpio, an Audi and an Innova.

Panag's rival Kirron Kher (BJP) has listed a Mercedes Benz in her name, as also a Scorpio and a BMW in her husband's name. The Congress MP from this seat, Pawan Bansal has got a Maruti Esteem and a Honda City.

Realty baron Anil Kumar Sharma, who is eyeing the Jahanabad seat in Bihar on a JD(U) ticket, has declared he owns a Ford Endeavour.

One of the richest candidates, R Prabhakara Reddy, who is hoping to win the Bangalore Rural constituency on behalf of JD(S), has declared nine motor vehicles. Besides a Maruti 800 and Mahindra Jeep, he owns two Mercs, a Hyundai Santro, a Hyundai Accent, Skoda Rider and a BMW. He also possesses a Royal Enfield Bullet.

Abhijit Mukherjee, son of President Pranab Mukherjee, who is seeking re-election from Jangipur, West Bengal, has listed a Maruti-800 car in his affidavit.

AAP leader Shazia Ilmi has listed one yacht in her husband's name.

Congress leader Krishna Tirath from Delhi has got a humble WagonR.

Meanwhile, Sandeep Dikshit, a sitting MP and son of former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, has got a Nissan Micra, two TVS bikes, one TVS scooty, one Bolero SUV and one Hero bicycle (purchased in 2012 for Rs. 3,500).

He has also listed another BSA SLR bicycle in name of his daughter Yamini (purchased for Rs. 4,000 in 2012).

Others with bikes in their asset-sheets include Dhruv Narayan Karn (a Left candidate from Madhubani), while Aam Aadmi Party candidate from the same constituency, Neeraj Pathak, has listed a 'Royal Enfield' bike, a sturdy two- wheeler commonly known as 'Bullet'.

The 'Bullet' gang also includes BJP leader from Araria (Bihar) Pradeep Singh, while his JD-U rival Vijay Mandal has got 'Rajdoot' -- another sturdy bike which used to be very famous at one point of time.

Among the humble variants, Vespa scooter and Maruti-800 car have been declared by Bihar's RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui, while journalist-turned-politician Chandan Mitra (fighting from West Bengal on BJP ticket) has a Honda scooter.

JD-U candidate from Kishanganj (Bihar) has also got a Hero Honda bike, while AAP's Ashutosh has got a Yamaha bike along with a Volkswagen car.

Those owning a tractor include Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Congress's Priya Dutt and BJP leader Nikhil Kumar Choudhary.

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