BHOPAL, Nov 25 – Millions voted Monday across Madhya Pradesh, with the BJP confident of winning another five-year term and the Congress claiming that it was poised to take power.
More than 55 percent of the 4.66 crore electorate had voted by 4 p.m. across the sprawling state, which will elect a new 230-seat assembly, the verdict due on Dec 8.
Polling opened at 8 in the morning all over the state barring three constituencies in Balaghat district, a Maoist hub where balloting began an hour earlier so that it could end — for security reasons — before sunset.
By 2 p.m., 43.6 percent of the electorate had voted, Madhya Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer Jaideep Govind told reporters here. This went up to over 55 percent two hours later.
The polling was largely peaceful barring stray incidents of violence.
Supporters of candidates exchanged gunfire near four polling booths each in Bhind and Morena districts.
Border Security Force troopers opened fire near one polling centre in Morena after a scuffle.
An electronic voting machine (EVM) was damaged in Bhind while one was taken away by thugs in Morena, a region known once upon a time as bandit country.
A similar incident was reported in Seoni district, said Govind.
With 2,586 candidates in the fray, the main contest is between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, contesting from his traditional Budhni constituency as well as from Vidisha, is confident of winning another five-year term.
He told the media before voting in his village in Sehore district that his dream was to make Madhya Pradesh a developed state.
Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath asserted that the Congress would win at least 140 seats “as people want to be free of the corrupt BJP regime”.
He was speaking to reporters after voting in Chhindwara constituency.
Among the prominent BJP candidates are former chief minister Babulal Gaur (Govindpura constituency in Bhopal), minister Kailash Vijayvargiya (Mhow in Indore) and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s nephew Anoop Mishra (Bhitarvar in Gwalior).
BJP’s Yashodara Raje Scindia is contesting against her nephew and union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, projected as the Congress’ unofficial chief ministerial candidate, from Shivpuri in Gwalior.
Prominent Congress candidates include former union minister Suresh Pachauri (Bhojpur), leader of the opposition in the assembly Ajay Singh (Churhat), Digvijaya Singh’s son Jaivardhan Singh (Raghogarh), and Sachin Yadav, son of former deputy chief minister Subhash Yadav (Kasravad).
Officials said faulty EVMs were replaced at 15 places.
K.B. Srivastav, a teacher on election duty in Katni district, died after a heart attack. Election Commission official Govind said.
Not a single vote was recorded in 10 polling booths in Ratlam, Raisen, Morena, Betul, Damoh and Rajgarh districts till 2 p.m. after the residents decided to keep away from the balloting in protest over local issues.
The polling began briskly despite a chilly morning. Voters queued up at many polling centres even before they opened. As the sun rose, the queues kept lengthening.
For the first time, the “none of the above” (NOTA) option has been made available to voters on the EVMs.
The BJP ousted the Congress in 2003. In 2008, it retained power winning 143 seats. The Congress won 71.
The Madhya Pradesh verdict will be out Dec 8 along with the results of the Delhi, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh elections. IANS