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Elections 99

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First phase of polling begins

New Delhi, September 5. 1030 hrs IST/ 0500 hrs GMT

Indelible ink mark (Pics: Anirban Roy)
The mark of Indelible Ink on the finger
of a voter in New Delhi (Pics: Anirban Roy)

Security Personnel (Pics: Anirban Roy)
Nothing much to do so far

First phase of polling for 145 Lok Sabha and 343 Assembly seats in 16 states and Union Territories opened on a dull note at 0700 hrs IST/ 0130 hrs GMT today amid heightened security. More than 161 million voters will decide the fate of 1066 candidates in the first phase of polling covering 145 Lok Sabha constituencies in Gujarat (26), Maharahstra (24),Tamil Nadu (19), Karnataka (15), Punjab (13), Andhra Pradesh (12), Rajasthan (10), Haryana (10), Delhi (7), Goa (2), Jammu and Kashmir (2), Chandigarh (1), Pondicherry (1), Dadra and Nagar Haveli (1), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (1) and Daman and Diu (1).

The prominent among 1,066 candidates whose electoral fortune will be decided today are Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former Union Minister Sushma Swaraj in Bellary, Union Ministers L K Advani and former Chief Election Commissioner T N Seshan in Gandhinagar, P R Kumaramangalam in Tiruchirapalli, Ananth Kumar in Bangalore South, Jagmohan in New Delhi, Surjit Singh Barnala in Sangrur, former Lok Sabha speaker Shivraj Patil in Latur and former Finance Ministers Dr Manmohan Singh in South Delhi and P Chidambaram in Sivaganga.

Unprecedented security, including air surveillance, has been mounted to ensure a smooth poll. Security forces are on maximum alert in Srinagar and Ladakh constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir following reports of possible attacks by Pakistan-sponsored militants to disrupt polling.

Polling has also started for all the Seven Lok Sabha constituencies in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. In all, 97 candidates are in the fray including BJP leaders Madan Lal Khurana, Sahib Singh and Jagmohan and Congress stalwarts Manmohan Singh, R K Dhawan and Meira Kumar. The capital has an electorate of 87,07,436, of whom 50,19,152 are men and 36,88,284 women.

The city will be creating history as for the first time Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are being used in the 8,700-odd polling booths in all the seven parliamentary constituencies. According to Chief Electoral Officer of Delhi, Prakash Chander, more than 45,000 polling staff would be on duty from 0700 hrs IST to 1700 hrs IST.

After polling, the EVMs would be transported to 13 counting centres, where they would be kept under tight security till the counting day on October Six. In view of the seizures of large quantities of RDX explosives and the reported ISI plot to disrupt polling, tight security arrangements have been made. The entire Delhi Police strength of 55,000 personnel besides 8,000 Homes Guards would be on poll duty, Police Commissioner Ajai Raj Sharma said.

Chandni Chowk has the least number of polling booths at 410, followed by 550 in Delhi Sadar, 580 in New Delhi, 590 in Karol Bagh, 1,210 in South Delhi, 2,360 in East Delhi and 2,990 in Outer Delhi. Of these, some 220 polling booths have been identified by police as sensitive and hyper-sensitive.

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