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Who cares for EC's model code of conduct!

As the day advanced, many polling agents were seen making frantic calls to persuade people to come and vote, reports Girish Chadha.

india Updated: Dec 01, 2003 16:19 IST

Notwithstanding the Election Commission's model code of conduct, many political parties adorned the polling agents' tables with posters of their candidates and biggies besides other propaganda material outside several polling booths in the city.

Some polling agents are also reported to have dished out election slips for voters bearing names of the local candidates. Local BJP heavyweight Harsharan Singh Balli's supporters are alleged to have distributed such an election slip bearing Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's image along with Balli, in the Hari Nagar constituency late on Tuesday. The slips were, however, taken back by the supporters on Monday morning before the polling started.

Congress candidate from Moti Nagar constituency Alka Lamba also alleged that election slips bearing the image of her rival and BJP's chief ministerial candidate Madan Lal Khurana were being given to voters outside the polling booths in the area, thus violating the Election Commission's code of conduct.

Otherwise, allegations of bogus votes, low turnout despite good weather and mix-ups in voter lists and polling booths, and some minor scuffles marked the early hours of polling on Monday.

The national Capital, one of the four states having gone to the polls, bore almost a deserted look in the morning, notwithstanding the hustle-bustle around various polling booths.

In the absence of many voters, it was left to the polling agents to engage in frequent wordy duels with their counterparts sitting close-by. The issues ranged from weaning away voters by serving tea and snacks to disturbing peace by loud noises.

Some action was witnessed at the polling booths in the constituencies of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and her political rival Khurana.

Congress and BJP supporters came to blows at a polling booth in Khurana's Moti Nagar constituency just minutes before he was to cast his vote, but timely intervention by the police avoided the situation from getting worse. In Gole Market, timely action by the police avoided another unpleasant situation from arising in a polling booth, earning the Delhi Police's booth in-charge a cash reward of Rs 500 by his district head.

Long used to accusations of favouring those in power, the police seem to be taking no chances this time. In some of the polling booths that this correspondent visited, entry into the polling area was being restricted only to bona fide voters with Election Commission voters cards or a valid identity card accompanied by the election slips being dished out by polling agents of various political parties. Those carrying mobile phones were told to leave them outside.

Even a TV crew from a foreign media group was not allowed access to a polling booth in the area in the absence of 'proper papers' and some supporters of a candidate were told to keep the entrance to the polling booth 'clear for actual voters'. Voters, however, seemed conspicuous by their absence in some of the polling booths.

"People seem disinclined to let go of a chance to spend another day with their family in the winter sun after the weekend," said one voter, who came on a wheel chair to one of the booths and was helped inside by the police constable on duty.

The polling agents outside some booths in Gole Market bore serious looks every time some local leader on a tour of the constituency approached in a vehicle. Back-of-the-envelope calculations about number of voters turned up so far were dished out and carried to each leader.

As the day advanced, several polling agents were seen making frantic calls to induce people to come and vote, offering some to-and-fro transportation. The result of the elections, said a young pavement shopkeeper, "should decide how we are dealt with by the local administration. I hope the candidates keep their pre-poll promises".

First Published: Dec 01, 2003 15:55 IST