11,000 new voting booths set up in MP, highest among five states having polls

The Election Commission has set up over 11,000 new polling booths in Madhya Pradesh, the maximum among the five states having assembly polls, as part of its efforts to ensure a high voter turnout during the elections slated next week, the state’s chief electoral officer said on Thursday.

CEO V L Kantha Rao also said the state has witnessed more than double the seizure of suspect cash, drugs and other illegal inducements used to lure voters, as compared to the last polls of 2013.

“A total of 11,421 new polling booths have been opened in Madhya Pradesh this time. This is about 21 per cent more than the last time and with these new ones we will have around 65,000 booths in all. In 2013, the total polling booths in the state were about 53,000,” Rao said in in an interview.

“I can assure you that with this increase in the number of polling booths, no voter in Madhya Pradesh will have to travel more than 2 kms to vote,” Rao said.

The number of polling booths has increased by 14 per cent in Rajasthan, by 11 per cent in Telangana and 3 per cent in Mizoram — the other three states were voting will take place in coming days. In Chhattisgarh, where voting took place in two phases on November 12 and November 20, the number of polling booth rose by 10 per cent this time.

Counting of votes for all five state assemblies would take place on December 11. While Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram will vote on November 28, Rajasthan and Telangana are scheduled for polling on December 7.

Taking about the poll panel’s action against illegal inducements being used to lure voters in Madhya Pradesh, Rao said suspect cash, drugs and other items worth over Rs 63.45 crore have been seized in the state till now as compared to more than Rs 27.61 crore of such seizures during the entire poll period in 2013.

Madhya Pradesh will vote for its 230-member assembly on November 28 in a single phase and the seizure figures may rise further in the next few days. These seizures are from the period beginning October 6, when the Election Commission (EC) in Delhi announced the polls for the five states.

The seizures made by the EC-appointed surveillance teams this time include over Rs 28.25 crore suspect cash, more than Rs 8.89 crore worth of gold and jewellery, over 5.22 lakh litres of liquor worth Rs 12.39 crore and over 63-kgs of drugs worth Rs 5.49 crore, the CEO said.

As many as 1,847 FIRs have been registered for various poll-related offences in the state till now, out of which 1,288 criminal complaints are regarding defacement of property, he added. “The officers have been very strict in enforcing the law and the rules mandated by the Election Commission,” the CEO said.

Rao, a 1992-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, said the poll body is targeting to ensure “80 per cent voter turnout” as compared to the 72.66 per cent last time.

“To achieve this (target) and to ensure inclusive, accessible, credible and ethical voting we undertook a huge exercise for ensuring purity of the electoral rolls and creating awareness about the right to vote for the electors. We have deleted 35 lakh names from the electoral rolls out of which 14 lakh were dead or duplicate ones,” Rao said.

He said 16 lakh new voters have been added to the electoral rolls and the number of registered women voters has also gone up. As a result, the CEO said, there are 917 women per 1,000 men in the electoral list now as compared to 898 females per 1,000 males during the last polls.

To undertake awareness measures for the voters, the state EC has doubled its budget from Rs 14 crore in 2013 to Rs 27 crore this time, Rao said.

He said the election authorities have taken measures that in case of any glitches in the electorinc voting machines (EVMs) during the polling day, a reserve of 10 per cent of fresh EVMs will be with the sector officers for quick dispatch to any location witnessing such problems.

The central Indian state has been ruled by the BJP government for the last 15 years and the main opposition political party Congress is leaving no stone unturned to regain power at Vallabh Bhawan in Bhopal (state secretariat) where it has held the power seat for the maximum time since Independence.

The poll campaign will end on November 26 in the state which has 5.05 crore registered voters, out of an estimated population of 7.5 crore people.