Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Choppers ready for today’s vote

OUR CORRESPONDENT


Ranchi, Nov. 24: Amid an unprecedented security blanket, Jharkhand is all set to hold Assembly elections, the first phase of which is to begin tomorrow when the fate of as many as 470 candidates will be decided in 26 seats spread across the regions of the capital, Santhal Pargana, Kolhan and the coal belt.

With Maoists having issued a poll boycott call in certain pockets, and making their presence felt in Giridh and Palamau in the last 24 hours, security is top priority.

Four helicopters have been kept on standby along with at least 10 dog squads, requisitioned from Uttar Pradesh police. This apart, every poll party has been given first aid boxes and walkie-talkies for better communication.

Among the most vulnerable areas going to polls in the first phase, as identified by the election commission and security forces, are Patamda (East Singhbhum), Khalari (Ranchi), Tundi (Dhanbad) and Jharia.

State joint chief electoral officer Ashok Kumar Sinha told The Telegraph that almost all polling stations would be manned by central paramilitary forces, adding he was confident of the arrangements that had been made to ensure free and fair polling.

“We are not going to keep the central forces in reserve. All available forces will be deployed covering each and every rural area and polling station,” said a senior police officer requesting anonymity.

But as a matter of strategy, state police headquarters would not disclose the exact number of security forces that had been deployed in the first phase of elections that would see over 65.32 lakh voters, including 30.55 lakh women, exercise their franchise.

In Ranchi district, 29 video cameras and 49 companies of security personnel would be keeping vigil in the three Assembly constituencies of Ranchi, Kanke, Hatia.

Cameramen and security personnel were sent off today from Morabadi ground with as many 5,019 poll personnel and 97 micro observers for the 1,103 booths in the three constituencies where as many as 10.7 lakh people — among them, 4.9 lakh women — would be exercising their franchise.

Deputy commissioner and district election officer Kamal Kishore Soan said 64 people had been arrested as a preventive measure from vulnerable hamlets of Ranchi and Kanke constituencies.

There are as many as 61 candidates in the fray in the three constituencies — 18 in Ranchi, 23 in Hatia and 20 in Kanke.

In the first phase, Godda and Tundi would witness the maximum number of candidates, 25 each. Jugsalai has the least with 11 candidates.

Sinha said 8,176 control units and 13,850 ballot units of EVMs would be used. The seats where the number of candidates were more than 16 would require two ballot units to accommodate all the names.

In terms of area, Mahagama is the largest constituency while Hatia has the maximum number of voters in first phase at 3,88,611. Littipara in Santhal Pargana has the least number of voters at 1,53,566.

Of the 26 seats going to polls tomorrow, four seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates and three for Scheduled Caste (SC) nominees.

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