As the single phase assembly elections in Uttarakhand culminated on Wednesday, officials say the vote percentage might be more than in 2012, in a fight mainly between the ruling Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The turnout till 5 pm was 68 per cent, said the Election Commission. “The final figure will arrive tomorrow and is expected to be around 70 per cent, ” Chief Electoral Officer Radha Raturi said. “It’s a record for the state,” she added. The polling to Karnaprayag constituency of the state was adjourned due to the death of BSP candidate Kuldeep Singh Kanwasi and it will now be held on March 9.
The election in the poll-bound hill state is considered a direct contest between the ruling Congress and BJP. But the presence of about a dozen rebel candidates in the fray as independents may upset the calculations. “Polling in 69 of the 70 constituencies in the hill state ended on a peaceful note,” Election Commission officials said. Although the final vote percentage is not known yet, officials believe it might be better than five years back.
After a slow start initially, there was a decent turnout of people across the state as they came out in large numbers to vote. The maximum voting was recorded from Uttarkashi (73 per cent), Nainital (70 per cent), Haridwar (70 per cent), whereas Almora (52 per cent) in Kumaon recorded the least polling. The state had seen 67.22 per cent voting in 2012 elections.
In Gangolihaat constituency of Pithoragarh, zonal magistrate Karan Singh died of heart attack on duty. Singh,59, was posted as the Superintendent Engineer PMGSY in the district. Pithoragarh is one of the hilly districts of the state. In such districts, polling officials had to walk up to 30 km to reach some booths. The EC had estimated that as many as 803 booths located across 35 constituencies would be affected by snow.
Pithoragarh DM Ranjit Sinha noted that “Singh had diabetes and recently had heart operation”. Sinha, however, noted that “he had not informed us. If he had, we would not have put him on duty. It was an unfortunate incident.” Sinha added that the “task of the zonal magistrate was only to coordinate, and he had not personally visited any booth”. At a booth in Kichha, from where CM Harish Rawat is contesting, BJP supporters alleged that they were unable to press the lotus symbol on EVM.
In 2012, Haridwar (75.35 per cent) had witnessed maximum polling, with Uttarkashi (72.99 per cent) being the second. This poll will be defined by the number of seats the third front candidates, comprising BSP and Independents and regional parties, and the 13 Congress rebels, who are contesting on the BJP tickets, are able to get.
This is the fourth assembly polls in the state where 7.5 million voters decided the fate of 628 candidates. Braving inclement weather at some places, people voted in large numbers, officials said. Enthusiasm was evident as some people carried their elderly to the polling station.
While Umesh Pande carried his old father on his shoulders to reach the polling station at Jeolikote, another man carried 92-year-old Lal Singh to the station. 96-year-old Pan Singh came to caste his vote walking with a stick. Postal ballots will be received till March 11, the day votes go for counting in all five states, including Uttarakhand, added officials. In total, Uttarakhand had 10,685 polling stations. Out of which 1,409 were classified as “very sensitive”. A polling station at Yamunotri was located at a height of 9,800 feet above sea level.
12 former Congress MLAs contesting as BJP candidates and two former BJP MLAs travelling in Congress boat have made these elections interesting. Chief minister Harish Rawat, who is seeking a second stint in office is contesting from two seats, Haridwar (rural) and Kichha in Udhamsingh Nagar district. BJP heavyweight Satpal Maharaj is contesting from Chaubatakhal whereas state BJP chief Ajay Bhatt is battling it out in Ranikhet.
(With ENS inputs)