Jaipur, Dec 1 :
Millions voted across Rajasthan Sunday in elections to pick a new 200-seat assembly in India’s largest state.
Polling began at 8 a.m., and by noon 18-20 percent of the over 40 million electorate had exercised their franchise, officials said here.
“The polling is peaceful and is expected to pick up during the day,” an Election Commission official told IANS.
In 2008, Rajasthan recorded 66.25 percent of voting. The Congress came to power then.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, former chief minister and BJP state president Vasundhara Raje, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Gulab Chand Kataria and assembly speaker Deependra Singh were among those who voted early.
The electronic voting machines broke down in some places. They were quickly repaired or replaced.
Polling is on under tight security in more than 47,000 centres. Of these, some 10,000 have been declared “sensitive” — official euphemism to mean they are prone to violence.
There are 2,087 candidates in the fray.
The Congress and the BJP are contesting in all the seats while the National Peoples Party (NPP) has put up candidates in 150 and the Bahujan Samaj Party in over 100 seats.
The state is witnessing a keen tussle between the BJP, which is determined to return to power, and the Congress, which is hoping for a second straight win.
In the outgoing house, the Congress held 102 seats and the BJP 79.
Mayawati’s BSP and NPP are trying to make a dent in the vote bank of both the major parties. The BSP won six seats in 2008 but all six legislators joined the Congress.
“The voting began at 8 a.m. at 47,223 polling booths spread across the state. The polling will continue till 5 p.m. and we have made elaborate security arrangements for peaceful polls,” an official of the Rajasthan Electoral Office told IANS.
Over 10,000 polling stations have been declared sensitive and critical and security measures have been beefed up in these areas.
In all, over 1.19 lakh security personnel have been deployed in the state to conduct peaceful and fair elections.
Over 40.8 million (4.08 crore) voters, including around 2.15 crore male and 1.93 crore female voters, are expected to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of over 2,087 candidates, including 167 women candidates, who are in the fray.
The fate of the chief minister and Congress leader Ashok Gehlot, former chief minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vasundhara Raje, the state Congress president Chandrabhan, Gujjar leader Prahlad Gunjal, who is fighting on a BJP ticket, and Meena leader Kirori Lal Meena, who now is contesting on National Peoples’ Party ticket, hangs in balance.
The Congress and the BJP are fighting on all 200 seats, while the National Peoples Party on 150 and BSP on over 100 seats.
The state is likely to witness a keen tussle between the BJP and the Congress. The Congress under the leadership of Ashok Gehlot is trying to record a second consecutive term in power.
It has always been a two-party contest in the state. This time, however, Mayawati’s BSP and NPP are trying to make a dent in the vote bank of both the major parties.
BSP had won only 6 seats it contested in 2008 elections and all of its MLAs later joined the Congress.
While the Congress raised the issue of development that Rajasthan had seen in the last five years, the BJP spoke about corruption and bad governance.
BJP also targeted the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre on price rise and it’s in ability to curb corruption.
Political analysts are divided over who will win the election.
“There does not seem to be an undercurrent for any party, so it has become difficult to predict. But one thing is sure that these polls would be a close elections with rebels, NPP and BSP creating problems for both the BJP and the Congress”, said Ravi Goswami, a political analyst. (IANS)