The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ballot box suspense before result

Dec. 10: The talking point as campaigning for the Godda Lok Sabha bypoll on December 12 featuring 19 candidates drew to a close this evening was whose names would figure on the second electronic voting machine (EVM) at the polling booths.

Since an EVM can accommodate only 16 names, the booths will have two balloting units each, connected in parallel and controlled by a single unit. Names and symbols of only three candidates will be on the “second” EVMs. The byelection is being conducted entirely through the machines.

The 11.91-lakh Godda electorate has so far not dropped much hint to enable bets to be placed on a likely winner. The contest is evenly poised among four candidates — Pradeep Yadav (BJP), Sanjay Yadav (RJD), Furkan Ansari (Congress) and Hussain Ansari (JMM) — while Jharkhand Vikas Party leader Suraj Mandal is also testing his luck.

The flavour of the campaign here, powered by the likes of Laloo Prasad Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Babulal Marandi and Sibu Soren, has been different from that during the Dumka bypoll, which sent Soren to the Lok Sabha. Caste and religion have been key elements here with political spin doctors busy working out permutations and combinations on these two potent factors.

Chief electoral officer A.K. Pandey said though 989 of the 1,599 booths have been declared “sensitive”, sufficient armed police personnel would be posted at all booths.

“A total of 17,200 police personnel will be deployed in the constituency, including 200 jawans of the paramilitary forces. The state police personnel have been provided a group insurance cover of Rs 10 lakh each, while the paramilitary jawans have a cover of Rs 2.5 lakh each,” he added.

“As per the Election Commission’s directives, identity verification of the voters is a must. The polling officers at the booths have been empowered to satisfy themselves about a person’s identity before allowing him to vote. The poll panel has deputed three officers as observers — P.K Gupta, A.R. Vardhan and S.R. Dhal — who can be immediately informed of any irregularities,” Pandey said, adding that repolling, if necessary, would be held on December 14 and the results announced the next night.

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