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Counting for Rae Bareli bypoll begins

Written by: Staff
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Rae Bareli, May 11: Counting for the crucial Rae Bareli bypoll, from where AICC president Sonia Gandhi is seeking re-election, started here this morning amid tight security arrangements.

Election Commission officials said here the counting started at 0800 hrs and final results were expected to be declared by 1300 hrs. The first trend is expected within an hour.

Ms Priyanka Vadra, election agent of Ms Sonia Gandhi, reached at the counting center well before 0800 hours and went round the area.

Meanwhile, political activities were still continuing over the Rae Bareli bypolls, with the Election Commission yesterday directing the state chief electoral officer to lodge case against state minister Shivpal Singh Yadav -- brother of Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, for committing electoral offences during the electioneering.

The state electoral officer would be sending his compliance report to the EC by May 13 over the issue.

Despite the EC increasing poll timings by an hour, polling on Monday had been a poor 42.6 per cent with heatwave and marriages keeping most electorate away from voting booths. This was despite Congress' call for a higher voter turnout to ensure her election by a record margin. In 2004, the constituency had witnessed a 48 per cent turnout.

The polling was peaceful and no repolling was held even though some candidates including BJP's Vinay Katiyar alleged large-scale rigging.

Last time, Ms Gandhi had won by a margin of around 2,49,000 votes with 58.75 per cent of voters casting ballot in her favour.

There are a total of 13,61,411 voters in Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituency and women comprise a little less then 50 per cent of the electorate.

Other prominent candidates in the fray against Ms Sonia Gandhi include BJP's Vinay Katiyar, SP's Rajkumar Chaudhury and Apna Dal's Prabha Singh Lodh, who is former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti's nominee. Ms Gandhi is seeking re-election after her resignation following the office of profit controversy.

On March 23, she had resigned from the LS seat and from the chairpersonship of National Advisory Council (NAC) after the Opposition, mainly the BJP and Samajwadi Party, charged her with holding offices of profit, while being an LS member.

She is tipped to win the election by a landslide margin and expected to increase her lead on the other candidates from the victory she got during 2004 general elections.

In the 2004 LS polls, SP had finished second with 19.94 per cent votes polled, followed by the BSP. BJP was relegated to third slot.

This time BJP, which held the seat only twice in 1996 and 1998, is making an all-out effort to improve its performance.

Despite torrid weather conditions, electioneering had been quite hectic. To beat the heat, leaders of various parties and candidates had fanned out into interior villages and the stress was more on street corner meetings and door-to-door contacts.

Congress star campaigner Rahul Gandhi had forged ahead of others in wooing voters by touring remote villages and hamlets, appealing to women in particular to turn out in large numbers and vote for his mother.

Ms Gandhi herself addressed a series of election meetings across the constituency during her two-day visit to Rae Bareli.

UNI

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