Rajasthan all set for battle royale Saturday

Jaipur: Rajasthan is all set to vote on Saturday to elect members of a new assembly with the BJP aiming to unseat the ruling Congress, which is fighting hard to change the trend of alternate governments in the state.

Polling will be held from 7 am to 6 pm in 199 out of 200 constituencies amid tight security arrangements, chief electoral officer Praveen Gupta said.

Due to the death of the Congress candidate in Sriganganagar’s Karanpur seat Gurmeet Singh Koonar, also the sitting MLA, the election in this constituency has been adjourned.

The past few days saw a high-pitch electoral campaign with Congress focusing mainly on the works and performance of the Ashok Gehlot government, its schemes, and programs and also banked on the promise of seven guarantees if the party retains power. The BJP attacked the Congress on issues such as crime against women, appeasement, corruption, and paper leaks.

As many as 1862 candidates are in the fray with the number of voters being 5,25,38,105. These include 1,70,99,334 voters in the age group of 18-30, and of them, 22,61,008 are new voters in the 18-19 age group.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, state Congress chief Govind Singh Dotasra, assembly speaker CP Joshi, several ministers including Shanti Dhariwal, BD Kalla, Bhanwar Singh Bhati, Saleh Mohammad, Mamta Bhupesh, Pratap Singh Khachariyawas, Rajendra Yadav, Shakuntla Rawat, Udai Lal Anjana, Mahendrajeet Singh Malviya, Ashok Chandna and former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot are among the Congress leaders contesting the elections.    In BJP, leader of opposition Rajendra Rathore, deputy leader of opposition and former state president Satish Poonia, former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, MPs Diya Kumari, Rajyavardhan Rathore, Baba Balaknath and Kirodi Lal Meena are in the fray.

Gurjar leader late Kirodi Singh Bainsla’s son Vijay Bainsla is also contesting as BJP candidate.

At the same time, former chief secretary Niranjan Arya is trying his luck in politics as a Congress candidate.

The BJP has given tickets to 59 MLAs, including defected Congress MLA Girraj Singh Malinga and six Lok Sabha and one Rajya Sabha member while the Congress has fielded 97 MLAs including seven independents and one from BJP – Shobharani Kushwah who was expelled from the saffron party last year.   One of the major faces who joined the BJP from the Congress is former MP from Nagaur Jyoti Mirdha, who is contesting the assembly election.

Nagaur MP and Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) convener Hanuman Beniwal is also contesting the assembly elections. RLP is contesting the election in alliance with Aazad Samaj Party (Kanshiram) led by Chandrashekhar Azad.

BJP is contesting on all seats while Congress has left one seat – Bharatpur – for its ally Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) like the 2018 elections.

RLD currently holds the Bharatpur seat and Subhash Garg, who is the sitting MLA, is contesting the elections as the party candidate.   Apart from the BJP and Congress, other parties including CPI (M), RLP, Bharat Adiwasi Party, Bhartiya Tribal Party, Aam Aadmi Party,  AIMIM are also contesting the elections.

Over 40 rebels of both BJP and Congress are also in the fray.

At present, Congress has 107 MLAs, BJP 70, 3 RLP, 2 each of CPI (M) and Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP), 1 Rashtriya Lok Dal, 13 are independents and two seats (Udaipur and Karanpur) are vacant.

On the other hand, all the preparations for the elections have been completed.

Meanwhile, in a show of unity, Gehlot on Friday posted a video on social media platforms in which Pilot is making an appeal to people to vote for the Congress. The video post assumes significance as the Pilot-Gehlot power tussle has found frequent mention in the campaigning for the Rajasthan assembly polls with the prime minister also referring to it.

Chief Electoral Officer Praveen Gupta said that polling stations have been set up at a total of 36,101 places in the state.

“A total of 10,501 polling stations have been set up in urban areas and 41,006 in rural areas. Live webcasting will be conducted at a total of 26,393 polling stations. These polling centers will be monitored from the district level control room,” he said.

Across the state, 65,277 ballot units, 62,372 control units and 67,580 VVPAT machines including reserves will be used for voting.

He said that to ensure free, fair, and peaceful conduct of assembly elections, 6,287 micro observers and 6247 sector officers with reserves have been appointed, who will immediately resolve any kind of problem by continuously coordinating with the polling parties.

One additional EVM machine will also be given to all sector officers who will take action for repair and replacement if any EVM-related defect is reported.

As many as 2,74,846 polling personnel will conduct the voting. 7960 women polling personnel will take command at women-managed polling stations and 796 disabled polling personnel will take command at disabled-managed polling stations.

Wheelchairs have been arranged for voting at all the polling booths, taking advantage of which disabled people and voters above 80 years of age can cast their vote without any inconvenience.

A total of 1,02,290 security personnel have been deployed to ensure peaceful voting. A total force of 69,114 police personnel, 32,876 Rajasthan Home Guard, Forest Guard and RAC personnel have been deployed and 700 companies of CAPF have been deployed.

Three flying squads and as many Static Surveillance Teams (SST) will be deployed in each assembly constituency for intensive checking and monitoring on the voting day.

One additional FS and SST each will be deployed in expenditure-sensitive polling stations on polling day. There will be availability of at least three QRTs at each polling station, he informed.

Sealing and checking action will be taken at the check posts along the 4850 km long interstate border with the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab with the aim of preventing the entry of unwanted outsider elements.

Security arrangements have been tightened and more than 1,70,000 personnel including companies of central paramilitary forces (CRPF, BSF, ITBP, CISF, SSB, RPF, etc.) and armed forces of 18 other states slated to be deployed.

DGP (Law and Order) Rajeev Sharma said more than 70,000 Rajasthan Police personnel, 18,000 Rajasthan Home Guards, 2,000 Rajasthan Border Home Guards, 15,000 Home Guards of other states (Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh), 120 RAC Companies will also be involved.