Chatra, Feb 2 (UNI) Altogether 14 candidates made their last efforts to woo an estimated 2.4 lakh electorate, even though the CPI, backed by the JMM and RJD, the Congress and BJP were engaged in a triangular contest, as campaigning came to an end at 1700 hrs today for the February-4 by-election to the Simaria Assembly seat.
The authorities have made elaborate security arrangements, including aerial vigil for the seat, a Naxal-dominated area.
Deputy Commissioner Puja Singhal Pushwar said 26 companies of para-military forces were deployed, adding helicopters would be pressed into service for aerial surveys in the naxal-dominated areas.
The by-election, necessitated by the death of BJP's Upendra Nath Das, suddenly caught the attention of national leaders following the Congress' deadline of 60 days to the UPA-backed Madhu Koda government in Jharkhand either to perform or perish.
CWC member and in-charge of the state Ajay Maken said the party would take a final decision on pulling out of the government only after the bypoll.
The internal squabbles within the state UPA came to the fore when the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) announced their support to CPI candidate Ramchandra Ram, who was placed at the second position in the last Assemlby polls.
The Congress, wasting no time, gave the party ticket to former RJD leader Yogendra Nath Baitha, who secured third position in the last Assembly polls, bagging 17,859 votes. The Congress was placed fifth with its nominee forfeiting the security.
Railway Minister Lalu Prasad campaigned for the CPI candidate and notably refrained from making any comment against the Congress.
Mr Prasad said he felt morally obliged to support the Left Front as the UPA was supported by the Left parties at the Centre.
He, however, said the Congress had no mass base in Simaria.
For the Congress, Mr Maken took the charge sticking to two poll planks - development and removal of corruption. He asserted that the ground realities in favour of his party candidate were fast changing.
The BJP, which fielded the late Das's son, was initially banking on sympathy wave. However, the Congress versus the rest of the UPA allies in the battle of ballots seemed to swing the voter's attention and poll pundits felt that it would not be as easy for the BJP as presumed to retain the seat.
Former Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition Arjun Munda and state party president P N Singh mainly campained for the BJP while cinestar Shatrughna Sinha adressed rallies on the last day of the campaign.
Meanwhile, the DC said the adminisration was ready to tackle incidents like booth capturing and fake voters during the polling.
About 95 per cent of total 226 polling centres were identified as sensitive.
UNI XC-PRS DPM KD VC1245