The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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High turnout leaves politicians sweating

Ranchi, March 29: Charges of electoral malpractices on Thursday evening indicated the nervousness of all major political parties over the outcome of the Palamau byelection, which will be known on Sunday.

The byelection for the Lok Sabha, under the glare of 16,000 security personnel, passed off peacefully barring an abortive attempt to explode a landmine at Nawadih.

Average polling was reported at 50 per cent, said chief electoral officer (CEO) Debashish Gupta, while Palamau police superintendent Md Nehal spoke of voters turning out in large numbers in places like Bhandaria, Parsodih and Ketar, where earlier “security forces seldom reached”.

The SP attributed peaceful polling to meticulous home-work, planning and real-time response to the three-tier intelligence system put in place.

Old timers said it was perhaps the first election in many years in which the electorate exercised their franchise so freely.

Reaction of the three major players were, however, studies in contrast. BJP state president P.N. Singh accused the Palamau deputy commissioner of working against the interests of the party nominee.

RJD district president Ramnath Chandravanshi accused the BJP of grabbing booths and demanded repoll in 20 booths. While JVM leader Deepak Prakash lodged a complaint that they had discovered unsealed electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the area commanded by RJD MLA Girinath Singh.

JVM supporters gheraoed the Ranka block office, forcing the CEO to rush the subdivisional officer of Garhwa to conduct an on-the-spot inquiry and verify the allegations.

Prakash alleged that polling personnel from 22 booths had reached Ranka block with unsealed EVMs, after the polling was over, and that JVM workers had discovered it only by sheer chance. He accused the block staff of conniving with poll personnel to rig the election in favour of the RJD.

Girinath Singh, when contacted, described the allegations against RJD to be baseless and claimed that JVM was complaining because it had “already lost the election” though the counting is scheduled for Sunday.

Babulal Marandi exuded confidence and declared that his nominee would win the election comfortably. Marandi explained that since the Election Commission had banned the movement of leaders on polling day, he opted to return to Ranchi and rest at home.

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