Campaigning ends for 5 Maharashtra LS seats in first phase of polls

Mumbai, April 17 (IANS): A shrill election campaign in Maharashtra for the first phase of polling in five Lok Sabha constituencies where voters will exercise franchise on April 19 ended on Wednesday.

The seats going to polls in the first phase of Lok Sabha polls are -- Ramtek (SC), Nagpur, Bhandara-Gondiya, Gadchiroli-Chimur (ST), and Chandrapur. A total of 97 candidates are in the fray in these five constituencies.

The constituencies will see mostly triangular contests. The candidates have made a last-minute appeal for votes. Their fate will be sealed in EVMs by over 95.54 lakh voters, comprising more than 48.28 lakh males and 47.26 lakh females, plus 347 transgenders, 9,416 differently-abled, and 6,630 senior citizens.

The political heavyweights who campaigned here included Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari (also a candidate), Bharatiya Janata Party top brass including national president JP Nadda, state chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, Deputy CMs Devendra Fadnavis, Ajit Pawar, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Bollywood actor Govinda, and many more.

From the Opposition INDIA bloc-Maha Vikas Aghadi were Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi, state party Chief Nana F. Patole, Shiv Sena (UBT) President and ex-Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, Nationalist Congress Party (SP) President Sharad Pawar, state chief Jayant Patil, and other campaigners.

The main candidates in the fray include BJP's Union Minister Nitin Gadkari (Nagpur) with his main rival being Congress MLA Vikas P. Thakare, who is supported by Prakash Ambedkar's Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi; Shiv Sena's Raju D. Parwe, Congress' Shyamkumar D. Barve, and VBA's Kishore U. Gajbhiye {Ramtek (SC)}.

The prime contenders in Bhandara-Gondiya are BJP's Sunil B. Mendhe, Congress' Prashant Y. Padole, VBA's Sanjay G. Kewat; in Gadchiroli-Chimur (ST), the contest would be between BJP's Ashok Nete, Congress' Namdev D. Krisa, VBA's Hitesh P. Madavi; and in Chandrapur, BJP's state minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, sitting Congress MLA Pratibha S. Dharnorkar and VBA's Rajesh W. Bele.

The office of Maharashtra Chief Electoral Officer has set up a total of 10,652 polling booths with 21,527 ballot units, 13,963 control units, and 14,755 VVPAT machines for the huge election exercise.

Chief Electoral Officer S. Chockalingam said that the necessary materials and equipment required for polling in these five constituencies have been provided at the polling stations.

Adequately trained electoral staff and officials are available for the smooth conduct of elections.

Police personnel have also been deployed.

Also, seven helicopters have been sent to Gadchiroli constituency. CRPF units have been deployed in sensitive polling stations.

Voters above 85 years of age as well as disabled voters have been provided the facility of home voting as per their wish.

Ramps and wheelchair facilities have been provided at the polling stations for disabled voters.

General polling hours are from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. However, the polling time is from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. in four Assembly segments namely Amgaon, Armori, Gadchiroli, Aheri in the Gadchiroli-Chimur constituency and one Assembly segment Arjuni Morgaon in the Lok Sabha constituency of Bhandara-Gondiya.

Various security agencies including the Maharashtra Police and its specialised units have made elaborate arrangements for the people to exercise their franchise, plus the Central Reserve Police Force will be deployed at many sensitive polling stations in the Maoist-infested Gadchiroli-Chimur constituency.

In view of the severe heat-wave conditions punctuated with unseasonal rains and hailstorms, most political parties are keeping their fingers crossed for a good turnout by the electorate.



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Title: Campaigning ends for 5 Maharashtra LS seats in first phase of polls

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