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Rebels, small parties to play crucial role

This assembly poll constitutes a milestone for the voters of Madhya Pradesh who will be using an electronic voting machine (EVM) for the first time.

india Updated: Dec 01, 2003 12:09 IST

This assembly election constitutes a milestone not only for Digvijay Singh and Uma Bharti but also for the voters of Madhya Pradesh who will be using an electronic voting machine (EVM) for the first time. They will decide the fate of 2,171 candidates for 230 seats.

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The use of EVMs is expected to impact the poll results in more ways than one. Election Commission officials expect polling to be heavier than the 60 per cent that was registered in the past two elections. The curiosity about voting with the push of a button is likely to draw a greater number of voters to polling booths.

In the last elections, MP had registered an unusually high percentage of invalid votes — over 15 per cent. With the EVMs in action, there won't be any invalid votes. Pollsters are wondering which party may benefit from this.

Uncertainty has also crept in due to the presence of an unusually large number of rebel candidates — 157 from the Congress and 50-odd from the BJP. Representatives of the smaller parties, such as the BSP, Samajwadi Party, JD (U), Gondwana Gantantra Party and NCP — have added to the confusion.

Catchy slogans and a well-coordinated media campaign had given the BJP the headstart needed to cash in on the anti-incumbency factor. However, as the polling day drew nearer, the Congress managed to put up a spirited fight.

Though Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Home Minister L.K. Advani, and a host of Union ministers and film stars campaigned for the BJP, it was Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and Uma Bharti who drew the largest crowds.

Similarly for the Congress, it was not Sonia Gandhi whose campaigning brought the party back into the reckoning. It was the 250 election meetings that Digvijay addressed, and the 100 meetings that Jyotiraditya Scindia held in the Gwalior-Chambal and Malwa regions that seem to have changed the fortunes of the party.

The Congress' late surge seems to have made the role of the smaller parties and rebel candidates important. The BSP and SP will hurt the prospects of both the BJP and Congress. The BSP and SP will also win a number of seats as they have fielded many candidates who were denied tickets by the two main parties.

First Published: Dec 01, 2003 00:11 IST