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Despite pandemic, 70 pc turnout in bypolls in MP

Amid reports of violence at a few places, estimated 69.93 per cent voters exercised their franchise in crucial bypolls to 28 Assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday, an official said.

One person was injured in poll-related violence, the police said.

Voters seemed to have brushed aside fear of coronavirus to flock to polling booths. The average voting percentage in the 2018 Assembly polls in these 28 constituencies, most of them in the Gwalior-Chambal region, was 72.93, the official said.

The polling figure of 69.93 per cent was provisional and will be updated later, officials said.

The campaign for bypolls, which followed months after exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia from the Congress alongwith MLAs loyal to him which caused the party’s government to fall, was marked by acrimonious exchanges between ruling BJP and opposition Congress.

Both Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of the BJP and Congress leader and former CM Kamal Nath claimed that high turnout would favour their respective parties.

A total of 355 candidates, including 12 ministers, are in the fray in these bypolls.

Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Scindia, now a BJP Rajya Sabha member, cast their ballots at a booth in Gwalior district.

As voting progressed, Chouhan reached the BJP office in Bhopal in the afternoon and held discussions with party leaders.

Nath and other senior Congress leaders, including Digvijaya Singh, monitored the polling from a control room set up at the party office in Bhopal.

In Morena district, Congress and BJP supporters clashed at the Jatavara polling booth and an unidentified person fired a bullet during the incident, Superintendent of Police Anurag Sujania said.

“A man was injured, but it was not clear whether he received wound due to the gunshot or was hit by a stick. It will be clear only after medical examination. He has been sent to the district hospital for treatment,” the SP said.

In Bhind, Collector Virendra Singh Rawat said they received a report about gunshots being fired near a booth in Sondha village under Mehgaon Assembly constituency. The report was being verified,he added.

After complaints of dispute, district administration in Gwalior made Congress candidate Satish Sikarwar and BJP candidate Munnalal Goyal to stay in the police control room to defuse the situation.

Polling began at 7 am with COVID-19 prevention protocols in place and continued till 6 pm. Those in queue at 6 pm were allowed to vote, a poll official said.

“A total of 69.93 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots as per the updated figures till 9 pm in the 28 Assembly seats spread across the state’s 19 districts,” the official said.

The highest turnout (83.75 per cent) was reported from the Agar Malwa seat followed by Hatpipalya 83.66 per cent, Badnawar 83.2 per cent, Suwasra 82.61 per centand Biora 81.

The lowest (48.15 per cent) turnout was recorded from Gwalior-East, he said.

A release issued by the office of MP’s chief electoral officer said 63 control units, 65 ballot units and 196 VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trail) machines were replaced during mock polling conducted before the beginning of voting.

After the voting began, 29 ballot units, 23 control units and 88 VVPAT machines were replaced as of 11 am.

Madhya Pradesh has a 230-member Assembly. Recently one more Congress MLA resigned from his seat to join the BJP.

The BJP currently has 107 MLAs and needs to win eight more seats to attain a simple majority in the House.

The Congress’s tally has been reduced to 87 after the resignation of 26 MLAs since March this year.

Among others, the house has two BSP, one SP and four Independent members.

The by-elections to 28 seats was necessitated after the resignation of 25 Congress MLAs and death of three sitting legislators.

Resignations of Congress MLAs, most of them loyal to Scindia, led to the fall of the Kamal Nath government.

One more seat – Damoh – fell vacant following the resignation of sitting Congress MLA Rahul Lodhi a fortnight ago. However, bypoll for the Damoh seat is yet to be held.

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