Bhopal, Nov 16 (PTI) Madhya Pradesh will vote on Friday to decide the electoral fate of 2,533 candidates in 230 assembly seats, including political bigwigs like Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his predecessor and rival Kamal Nath, in a poll that will be a largely bipolar battle between the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress.
All arrangements have been made for a single phase voting covering all the 230 assembly seats -- 47 of them reserved for Scheduled Tribes and 35 for Scheduled Castes -- in the state which has more than 5.6 crore registered electors, a top poll official said on Thursday.
Polling will be held from 7 am to 6 pm in all the assembly segments except in Baihar, Lanjhi and Paraswada seats in Balaghat district, 55 booths in Mandla district's Bichhiya and Mandla seats and 40 polling stations of Dindori district, all Naxalite affected, where voting time is 7 am to 3 pm, Madhya Pradesh's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Anupam Rajan told reporters.
Mock poll will be conducted in the presence of authorized polling agents 90 minutes before the actual start of voting, he said.
A total of 64,626 polling stations have been set up in the state. Among these, 64,523 are main booths and 103 associate (sahayak) stations, where number of electors is more than 1,500, the CEO said.
As many as 5,60,58,521 voters, including 2,87,82,261 males, 2,71,99,586 females and 1,292 third gender persons, are eligible to exercise their franchise. The total number of voters also includes service and overseas electors, Rajan informed.
A total of 2,533 candidates of political parties and independents -- 2,280 males, 252 females and one third gender person -- are vying to enter the state assembly.
The number of "critical" voting stations stands at 17,032, while 5,260 booths will have all women polling personnel, the official said.
Booths which recorded very high turnout or witnessed any sort of violence during previous elections are designated as "critical polling stations".
As many as 183 polling stations have been set up for Persons with Disabilities (PwD), he said.
For the first time, 371 youth-managed booths have been set up, while the number of "model" polling stations stands at 2,536, said CEO Rajan.
Fifty-seven "green" booths (environment-friendly centres) -- 50 in Jabalpur and seven in Balaghat -- have also been established, he said.
For maintaining law and order during polls, prohibitory action was taken against 1,90,233 persons and 2,69,318 licensed weapons were deposited with authorities, said Rajan, adding 1,142 FIRs (first information reports) were registered for violation of the poll code.
In the 230 assembly seats spread across 52 districts, a total of 73,622 Ballot Units (BUs), 64,626 Central Units (CUs) and 64,626 VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) units will be used for conducting polling, he said.
VVPAT system keeps a physical trail of all votes cast. It allows voters to verify their votes are cast as intended.
An air ambulance has been stationed at Gondia in adjoining Maharashtra and another one will be made available on November 17. A helicopter has been stationed in Balaghat till completion of polling and another chopper will be kept ready in Bhopal to meet any exigencies, the official added.
Besides Chief Minister Chouhan (Budhni) and state Congress president Kamal Nath (Chhindwara), three Union ministers from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -- Narendra Singh Tomar, Prahlad Patel and Faggan Singh Kulaste -- are contesting the polls.
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijaywrgiya is contesting from Indore-1 and three Lok Sabha MPs of the saffron party -- Rakesh Singh, Ganesh Singh and Riti Pathak -- are also in the fray.
Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh's son and ex-state minister Jaivardhan Singh and former chief minister Arjun Singh's son Ajay Singh are contesting from their traditional Raghogarh and Churhat seats, respectively.
Besides main contenders for power Congress and the BJP, the Aam Aadmi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party, among others, have also fielded their candidates.
The high-decibel campaigning came to an end on Wednesday evening. Top leaders of contesting parties criss-crossed the state addressing rallies, holding roadshows, trading charges and making a slew of promises to seek votes for their candidates.
Electioneering saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president JP Nadda, Union minister Rajnath Singh and Chouhan, among others, addressing rallies to drum up support for saffron party nominees.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, party leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, Nath and Digvijaya Singh, among others, addressed rallies to seek support for their nominees.
Modi paid nine visits to the state and addressed 14 public meetings after elections were announced. The BJP is heavily banking on the Prime Minister's charisma to retain power.
The Congress, with 114 seats, emerged as the single largest party after the 2018 polls and formed the government with the help of BSP, SP and independent MLAs under the leadership of Kamal Nath.
However, the Nath regime collapsed in March 2020 after a rebellion by now Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and Congress MLAs loyal to him, paving the way for the return of the BJP government headed by Chouhan. PTI MAS NP RSY