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Stakes high for Uma, Shivraj in battle of ballot

THE STAGE is set for the first electoral test of Uma Bharti?s fledgling Bharatiya Janshakti in Bada Malehra Assembly and Vidisha Lok Sabha seats going to polls on Monday.

india Updated: Oct 30, 2006 15:37 IST

THE STAGE is set for the first electoral test of Uma Bharti’s fledgling Bharatiya Janshakti in Bada Malehra Assembly and Vidisha Lok Sabha seats going to polls on Monday.

Although Janshakti candidate for Malehra Rekha Yadav appears strong, Uma Bharti’s demand to defer the polling has betrayed her nervousness. That has caused anxiety among her supporters.

They have pinned all hopes on Uma’s pocket borrough, having already conceded defeat in Vidisha. Uma has focussed all her efforts in Bada Malehra to prove her oft-repeated claim that it was she who brought the BJP to power in the State in the 2003 Assembly elections. But BJP’s, particularly Shivraj Chouhan’s, hectic efforts to win over Lodhi and Yadav voters have rattled the BJ leaders in Bada Malehra.

After her ignominious departure from the Bharatiya Janata Party about a year back, Uma Bharti has her prestige at stake, particularly in the Bada Malehra constituency. She represented the seat in the State Assembly and resigned after forming her party.

The Chief Minister is no less worried. He has staked his prestige on the Vidisha seat where he got close friend Rampal Singh nominated as the party candidate at the expense of Varun Gandhi. Chouhan, who has represented Vidisha five times, campaigned almost as vigorously there as he had done in Budhni for his entry into the Assembly six months ago.

A combination of factors — electorate apathy, sabotage, anti-incumbency, workers’ anger — has worried BJP’s poll managers. For Monday’s polling, therefore, the main emphasis of the party is to motivate maximum rural voters to come out for voting amid hectic season of soybean harvest and Rabi sowing.

Apprehension of violence, particularly in Bada Malehra, is also haunting the BJP. The bitter altercation between Uma Bharti and Chouhan two days ago in Bada Malehra has cast an ominous shadow on the polling. Besides, allegations of abuse of official machinery are flying thick and fast.

Opposition parties, including the Congress, BJ and the Samajwadi Party, have expressed fears that the BJP might try to resort to “foul play”.
“Around 50 BJP workers have been deputed at every polling booth to cast fake votes by 8.30 am,” SP MLA Suneelam alleged at a press conference here.

Accusing the BJP of misusing government machinery, Suneelam demanded deployment of paramilitary forces at all polling booths.

Voicing similar fear, BJ general secretary Chandraraj Sanghvi claimed that more than 10,000 “outsiders” have been deployed in the poll-bound areas by the BJP to influence voters.

Making a scathing attack on the ruling party, Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Jamuna Devi alleged lack of development and accused the state government of failure in maintaining law and order.

For the Congress the by-election has afforded an opportunity to gain lost ground after its defeat in the last assembly polls. As the din and bustle of electioneering ended on Saturday evening, security was tightened in the constituencies amid large-scale preparations for voting at 1,480 polling stations in Vidisha and 216 in Bada Malhera. Additional forces, including CRPF and Special Armed Forces, have been summoned from neighbouring districts to ensure free and fair elections, official sources said.

Strict vigil was being maintained at 491 sensitive booths in Vidisha and 75 such stations in Bada Malhera, they said. Over 13 lakh voters in Vidisha and over 1.80 lakh voters in Bada Malehra are eligible to exercise their frenchise. Of the 1480 polling booths in Vidisha, strict vigil is being maintained at over 491 polling booths considered sensitive. Bada Malehra has 75 sensitive polling booths out of the total 216 booths.

Bada Malehra is witnessing a triangular fight among the BJP, Bharatiya Janshakti and the Congress while it is a direct fight between the BJP and the Congress in Vidisha. Bharatiya Janshakti is indirectly helping the Congress by eating into the BJP vote bank. That’s why apprehension of a low poll percentage has caused concern in the BJP camp.

First Published: Oct 30, 2006 15:37 IST