Ranchi, Dec 19: With Jharkhand set to enter the fifth and final phase polling for 16 Assembly seats spread across six districts on Saturday, the fate of heavyweights including Chief Minister Hemant Soren will be decided in this phase. Jammu and Kashmir will also go to the final phase of election on December 20.
Altogether 208 candidates, including 16 women are testing their luck in this phase, an EC release said. Polling will begin at 7 AM and end at 3 PM in all the 16 constituencies. Among the heavyweights, Hemant Soren, the JMM leader, is contesting from Dumka, apart from Barhait constituency, where he is facing challenge from former Morcha leader and BJP candidate Hemlal Murmu.
Assembly Speaker Shashank Shekhar Bhokta is seeking re-election from Sarath, while state Rural Works Minister Lobin Hembrom is in the fray from Borio constituency - both being JMM candidates.
Among the heavyweights, Hemant Soren, the JMM leader, is contesting from Dumka, apart from Barhait constituency.
Besides Soren's sister-in-law Sita Murmu nee Soren, who is seeking re-election from Jama, there are three JMM MLAs, one MLA each of Congress, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) and the RJD in the fray. Former minister Hari Narayan Rai, who contested as an independent from Jarmundi in the previous elections, is now contesting on a JMM ticket from the seat.
While the JMM has fielded candidates in all 16 seats, the BJP has put up 15 candidates. There are 12 candidates, including one woman, from the Bahujan Samaj Party, while the Congress has fielded 11 candidates, including two women. Other parties in the fray are CPI (four), CPI-M (six), NCP (two), JVM-P (15), RJD (six) and as many as 65 independent candidates, besides nominees of several registered parties.
Nala has a maximum 19 candidates, while Litipara has the least number of eight nominees. According to the police, there is Maoist presence in only some pockets of Dumka and Pakur districts.
A total of 36,90,069 including 17,84,486 women voters will cast their votes in this round of the elections, with 2,31,148 voters in the age group of 18-19 years. Of the 16 seats, nine are general, while seven are reserved for tribals. Pakur has the largest number of 2,91,379 voters and Barhait has the least 1,85,679 voters.
There are a total of 4,448 polling stations (including Auxiliary-30) with 149 in urban areas. As many as 833 of them are hyper-sensitive and 1,496 are sensitive, the EC release said. The Election Commission has deployed 22,240 polling personnel, 16 general observers, ten expenditure observers, three police observers, one awareness observer and 1,050 micro observers.
The seats going for polls on December 20 are Rajmahal, Borio (ST), Barhait (ST), Litipara (ST), Pakur, Maheshpur (ST), Sikaripara (ST), Nala, Jamtara, Dumka (ST), Jama (ST), Jarmundi, Sarath, Poreyahat, Godda and Mahagama constituencies, spread across six districts of Dumka, Pakur, Godda, Sahibganj and Jamtara with some parts of Jarmundi constituency falling in Degoarh district.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed two meetings in Dumka from where Hemant Soren is contesting and had asked the electorate to throw out the "looters" of the state. Modi had also attacked JMM supremo Shibu Soren and his Chief Minister son, accusing the duo of doing nothing for the state except filling up their "coffers".
Hitting back at Modi, Hemant Soren had alleged the BJP was a party of "loot and had "eyes" on the mineral resources of the state. AICC Vice President Rahul Gandhi, who addressed poll rallies in Sikaripara and Godda constituencies, alleged the BJP would snatch tribal lands if voted to power in Jharkhand.
Gandhi also said the Congress believed in empowering the people and take them along in the development of the country while Modi "never talks empowerment of women and farmers."
JMM supremo Shibu Soren, RJD chief Lalu Prasad, Union Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, MP and film star Hema Malini were others who campaigned for their respective candidates in the final leg of the five-phase elections that started on November 25.
Counting of votes will be taken up on December 23.