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Ranchi gears up for June-end mayoral polls

The Lok Sabha elections may have ended in Jharkhand, but residents of the state capital will once again have a brush with EVMs towards the end of June, this time to choose their mayor.

The state election commission is gearing up to host the countermanded mayoral elections tentatively on a day between June 24 and 26 with the poll panel chief, Shiv Basant, holding a meeting with Ranchi deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey on Friday to discuss the modalities.

To begin with, the SEC will paste the voter lists of Ranchi Municipal Area at each ward office on April 26 (Saturday).

Voters will have time till May 5 to go to their respective ward offices and check their names.

In case of any discrepancy, they can approach the deputy commissioner’s office for addition or deletion of names or any correction.

“The mayoral election will be held in the last week of June. We are looking at the dates between June 24 and June 26. The dates will be forwarded to the governor to get his approval in the week after the Lok Sabha election results are announced on May 16,” State Election Commissioner Shiv Basant told The Telegraph.

Asked about the preparations being undertaken by the commission, Basant said a physical verification report of 899 booths, where polling would be held, was sought from the Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC).

“The civic body has got the booths physically verified and the list has been forwarded to the deputy commissioner. Election officials have been directed to check the lists,” he said.

Regarding the meeting with Choubey, Basant said they discussed the mesaures that the district administration would have to take to ensure free and fair polling.

“We need to ensure that there are enough observers and keep an eye on candidates. We will have expenditure observers and surveillance systems just like the Lok Sabha elections. The poll has to be fair this time,” Basant stressed.

Last year, the Ranchi municipal elections witnessed a major fiasco in the eleventh minute when police seized Rs 21.90 lakh from a hotel in Lalpur on April 7, just a day before the elections.

Although the elections were held as per schedule on April 8, voting for the mayoral post was later countermanded as the amount seized pointed fingers at horse-trading with Rama Khalkho, then Ranchi mayor and second-time contender for the prestigious chair, being linked to the cash-for-vote controversy.

An FIR was also registered under non-bailable sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), naming Khalkho, Congress leader Niranjan Sharma and his employee Sudhir Sahu.

With the city doing without a mayor since then, the municipal corporation and all ward councillors are now upbeat about the fresh polls.

Arjun Baraik, councillor of ward 28, said he would start extensive campaigns in his ward to ensure that the people were not swayed by money power. “Whatever had happened last year was a lesson for all of us. It is important that we keep our eyes and ears open for the forthcoming elections,” he said.

Om Prakash, councillor of ward 30, said he would himself cross-examine the voter list and help the electorate in case of any discrepancy.