Moderate turnout in Rajasthan by-polls amid controversy

Express News Service
JAIPUR: The by-elections to three assembly seats in Rajasthan went off peacefully on Saturday, with moderate to high turnout recorded across most areas of Rajsamanad, Sahada and Sujangarh constituencies.

With the coronavirus crisis rapidly exploding across the country, polling was held from 7 am onwards amid strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols and Covid infected patients were also allowed to vote between 5 pm to 6 pm.

The polling day saw long queues from the morning and by 11 am, around 23 per cent of voters had used their franchise. By the end of the day, Rajsamanad saw  67.18 per cent, Sujhangrah saw 59.20 per cent and in Sahada 56.56 per cent votes were cast. The chief electoral officer Praveen Gupta said all voters had to undergo thermal scanning and wore gloves and masks at polling booths to curb the spread of the Covid-19. 

The officials also ensured that social distancing norms were followed strictly.

The voting day also witnessed some controversies as the BJP leaders complained of poll code violations and misuse of government machinery by the ruling Congress. BJP state president Satish Poonia took to Twitter claiming that the Congress had misused government machinery to influence voters. The BJP chief alleged that in one area, local Congress leaders had brought in MNREGA workers to vote in two special buses.

The Rajsamand assembly constituency was the centre of much controversy as some BJP-Congress workers had clashed on the eve of elections. The BJP also claimed that party leader Diya Kumari, the MP from Rajsamand, was the target of a serious attack though she escaped unhurt. As over 150 BJP workers were arrested by the local police, BJP chief Satish Poonia tweeted,  “The way the government machinery and the police in Rajsamand are being misused, we feel as if we are fighting the election not against the Congress party but the government machinery in the constituency.”

In the high-stakes battle in Rajsamand, the BJP’s Deepti Maheshwari (the daughter of former minister Kiran Maheshwari who died of Covid-19 last November) is pitted against Congress candidate Tansukh Bohra, a social worker.

The ruling Congress, however, was quick to dismiss the BJP charges as baseless. Congress President in the state Govind Singh Dotasara said, “The BJP allegations reflect their fear of losing these by-polls. If people are exercising their right to vote quite enthusiastically and the BJP says this is a misuse of government machinery, then it amounts to an insult of our democracy.” 

On the charge of Corona guidelines not being followed, Dotasara remarked, “As regards to flouting of corona norms, the BJP has no moral right to comment. Just look at how Modi and Shah have violated all norms in Bengal and Assam.”