MP: Third phase of polling for 9 seats to decide political fate of Shivraj, Scindia, and Digvijaya

Bhopal, May 6 (PTI) Voting for the third phase of Lok Sabha polls will be held on Tuesday for nine seats in Madhya Pradesh where Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and former state chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Digvijaya Singh are in the fray.

More than 1.77 crore voters will decide the fate of 127 candidates who are contesting from Morena, Bhind (SC-reserved), Gwalior, Guna, Sagar, Vidisha, Bhopal, Rajgarh and Betul (ST-reserved).

Voting will be held from 7 am to 6 pm across 20,456 polling stations, including 1,043 to be entirely managed by women, an official said.

“All necessary measures have been taken and adequate security arrangements are made to conduct free and fair elections in these constituencies,” Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Madhya Pradesh, Anupam Rajan, told reporters on Monday.

Geographically, these nine Lok Sabha constituencies are spread across 19 districts.

Rajan said polling in the Betul (ST) constituency was initially scheduled to be held in the second phase on April 26, but it was deferred to the third phase due to the death of a candidate.

“127 candidates, including nine women, are in the fray for the third phase. At 22, Bhopal has the highest number of candidates, while Bhind has the lowest at 7,” he said.

The 1.77 crore eligible voters include 92.68 lakh men, 84.83 lakh women, and 491 members of the third gender, he said.

“1.66 lakh electors are ‘divyangjan’ (people with disabilities), 88,106 are above 85, and 1,804 others have crossed the age of 100 years,” the chief electoral officer said, adding that 5.25 lakh electors are in the age group of 18-19 years.

He said 36,778 service voters include personnel of various security forces and the Army.

A total of 20,456 booths have been set up in nine constituencies and 2,043 of them will be managed by women employees and 75 by Divyang employees, he said.

“5,744 booths fall under the critical category and arrangements for additional security and webcasting have been made at these centres. Micro observers are also appointed at these critical booths,” Rajan said.

He said almost all the licensed arms have been deposited (by people).

A total of 25,108 ballot units, 20,456 control units and an equal number of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) will be used for polling on Tuesday, Rajan added.

All the arrangements, including wheelchairs, and shed for voters, have been made.

Meanwhile, 4,619 voters out of 11,747 electors in the 85-plus age group category have used the home voting facility for the third phase, besides 547 persons involved in essential services, including journalists, the chief electoral officer said.

The total value of the seizure made at various checkposts after the announcement of the elections stands at around Rs 280 crore, which includes cash, drugs, valuable metals, and liquor.

Rajan further said the Election Commission of India will monitor 80 per cent of the booths through webcasting.

“The number of booths to be monitored through webcasting has increased this time. Most of them are located in the Gwalior-Chambal region, especially in Bhind and Morena LS seats,” he added.

Rajan also said a total of 1,433 FIRs have been registered in Madhya Pradesh for the poll code violation.

The third phase contest will decide the political future of three bigwigs- Chouhan, Scindia, and Singh among others.

At stake is the political future of BJP leader and Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, seeking to reclaim the home turf Guna which he lost in 2019 when he was in Congress.

BJP veteran and former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is contesting from Vidisha constituency, a saffron fortress which he had represented five times in Lok Sabha in the past, after almost 17 years, facing Congress candidate Pratap Bhanu Sharma.

In Rajgarh, Congress veteran and former chief minister Digvijaya Singh, 77, seeks to reclaim the lost legacy, marking his return to the Lok Sabha electoral contest after more than 30 years. His challenger is two-time BJP MP Rodmal Nagar.

Digvijaya Singh won from Rajgarh in 1984 and 1991 but lost in 1989. He became the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh in 1993.

The BJP is hoping for a clean sweep in Madhya Pradesh, which sends 29 members to Lok Sabha.

In 2019, the BJP failed to win the Chhindwara constituency, the only saving grace for the Congress which managed to retain it on the charisma of party veteran Kamal Nath. His son Nakul Nath won the seat last time.

In high-stake Guna, where votes of the Yadav community can tilt the scales, Scindia is facing Yadvendra Singh Yadav of Congress.

In 2019, Scindia, who was then the Congress candidate, lost the Scindia family bastion to BJP’s KP Yadav.

Chouhan looks comfortably placed in Vidisha but the contest in Rajgarh may be a close one.

Of the total 29 seats in Madhya Pradesh, polling for 12 seats concluded in two phases on April 19 and 26. The remaining eight seats will go to polls in the fourth phase on May 13.

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