Assembly polls underway in Rajasthan, nearly 10 per cent votes cast in first 2 hours

Assembly polls underway in Rajasthan, nearly 10 per cent votes cast in first 2 hours

Jaipur, Nov 25 (PTI) Women and men, young and old, all headed to polling booths in Rajasthan as the state voted on Saturday to elect a new government.

Voting began at more than 51,000 polling booths at 7 am and in the first two hours, nearly 10 per cent of the electorate cast their votes, an official said. Voting will continue till 6 pm.

More than 5.25 crore voters will decide the fate of 1,862 candidates in 199 seats, out of a total of 200 in the state. Polling in one constituency has been postponed due to the death of a candidate.

The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements to ensure a smooth polling. More than 1.70 lakh security personnel have been deployed across the state.

The election in the desert state is a direct contest between the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP. The Congress is aiming to buck the trend of the ruling party being voted out every five years, while BJP is eyeing a return in the state ahead of the Lok Sabha polls next year.

Since morning, people showed enthusiasm and came out to vote in large numbers.

Many voters, youngsters as well as the elderly, queued up at polling centres well before 7 am.

'I got ready by 6 am, called up my friends and reached the polling booth so that we are the first ones to vote,' Himanshu Jaiyaswal, a college student, told PTI at a polling booth in Nitin Public School in Malviya Nagar.

'This is the festival of democracy and all should participate in it,' Jai Singh, another voter, said.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Union ministers Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Kailash Chaudhary, former chief minister Vasundhara Raje and former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot were among the first ones to cast their votes. Gehlot and Shekhawat cast their votes in Jodhpur, Chaudhary in Balotra, Raje in Jhalawar and Pilot in Jaipur.

Rajasthan BJP president C P Joshi exercised his franchise in Chittorgarh and party MPs Diya Kumari and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore voted in Jaipur. Kumari and Rathore are among the seven BJP parliamentarians who are contesting the assembly elections.

In their interactions with the media on the polling day, the leaders expressed confidence that their respective parties will get the mandate of the people.

There is no anti-incumbency against the Congress and the party will form the government in the state again, Chief Minister Gehlot said in Jodhpur.

'There seems to be an undercurrent. Looks like the (Congress) government will be repeated,' he said.

Talking to reporters in Jhalawar, Gehlot's predecessor Raje agreed with him but said it would benefit her BJP. 'I agree with him. There is indeed an undercurrent but in the favour of BJP. Lotus (BJP's poll symbol) will bloom on December 3,' she said.

In Jodhpur, Union minister Shekhawat said, 'BJP is coming to power with a huge majority. This time people will vote keeping in mind crimes committed against women, paper leak incidents and corruption during the five-year rule of the Congress.' Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several leaders appeal to the people of Rajasthan to vote in large numbers.

Officials said the polling was going on smoothly across the state.

In Pali district, a polling agent of a candidate died due to suspected cardiac arrest.

An official said Shanti Lal, a polling agent at booth number 47 in the Sumerpur assembly constituency, collapsed at the centre. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and then to the district hospital, where doctors declared him dead on arrival. The party affiliation of the polling agent was not immediately known.

Rajasthan has a total of 200 assembly seats but polling is being held on 199 seats as election in Karanpur in Sriganganagar district has been postponed following the death of Congress candidate Gurmeet Singh Koonar. There are 5,25,38,105 voters in the 199 assembly constituencies.

Chief Minister Gehlot (Sardarpura), Vasundhara Raje (Jhalrapatan), Sachin Pilot (Tonk), state Congress chief Govind Singh Dotasra (Lachhmangarh), Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) convenor Hanuman Beniwal (Khinvsar) are some of the key faces among the 1,862 candidates in the fray.

The results of the polls will be declared on December 3.

Several leaders of the BJP and the Congress have rebelled against their parties after being denied tickets.

Key BJP rebels include former assembly speaker Kailash Meghwal, Chandrabhan Akya from Chittorgarh and former transport minister Yoonus Khan from Deedwana.

In the Congress, main rebel candidates include Joharilal Meena from Rajgarh-Laxmangarh, Gopal Baheti in Pushkar, Habiburrahman from Nagaur, Virendra Beniwal in Lunkaransar, Khiladi Lal Bairwa in Baseri, and Dr. Param Navdeep Singh in Sangaria.

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are also contesting the assembly polls in the state. PTI SDA AG SMN SMN

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