2533 candidates are in the fray for 230 seats.

Bhopal, Nov 16 (PTI) Voting will be held on 230 assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh on Friday to decide the electoral fate of 2,533 candidates, including political stalwarts like Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his predecessor and rival Kamal Nath.

This election is largely a straight fight between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress.

There are more than 5.6 crore registered voters in the state, a top election official said on Thursday.

He said that all arrangements have been made for voting on all 230 assembly seats in a single phase. According to the official, 47 seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes and 35 seats for Scheduled Castes.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Anupam Rajan told reporters that voting will be held from 7 am to 6 pm in all assembly constituencies.

He said that due to Naxal-affected areas, polling time at Baihar, Lanji and Parswada in Balaghat district, 55 booths of Bichhiya and Mandla seats in Mandla district and 40 polling stations in Dindori district will be from 7 am to 3 pm.

A total of 64,626 polling stations have been set up in the state.

The CEO said that of these, 64,523 are main booths and 103 auxiliary centres, where the number of voters is more than 1,500.

Rajan said that 5,60,58,521 voters including 2,87,82,261 men, 2,71,99,586 women and 1,292 persons of third gender are eligible to exercise their franchise.

A total of 2,533 candidates are in the fray, including 2,280 men, 252 women and one person of third gender.

The number of ‘critical’ polling stations is 17,032, while all polling personnel at 5,260 booths will be women, the official said.

Booths which witnessed high turnout or any kind of violence during previous elections have been designated as ‘critical polling stations’.

He said that 183 polling stations have been made for the disabled.

CEO Rajan said that for the first time, 371 youth-managed booths have been set up, while the number of ‘model’ polling stations stands at 2,536.

He said 57 ‘green’ (eco-friendly centres) booths have also been set up, of which 50 are in Jabalpur and seven in Balaghat.

Rajan said prohibitory action was taken against 1,90,233 persons and 2,69,318 licensed weapons were deposited with the authorities to maintain law and order during the elections, adding that 1,142 FIRs were registered for violation of the poll code.

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 to conduct voting on 230 assembly seats in 52 districts, he said.

The official said that an air ambulance has been deployed in Gondia, adjacent to Maharashtra. He said one helicopter has been deployed in Balaghat till the completion of polling and another helicopter will be kept ready in Bhopal to deal with any emergency.

Apart from 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 elections. BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya is contesting from Indore-1 and three BJP Lok Sabha MPs – Rakesh Singh, Ganesh Singh and Reeti Pathak – are also in the fray.

Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh’s son and former minister of state Jaivardhan Singh and former chief minister Arjun Singh’s son Ajay Singh are contesting from their traditional Raghogarh and Churhat seats respectively.

Apart from Congress and BJP, others including Aam Aadmi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party have also fielded their candidates.

The election campaign ended on Wednesday evening. Top leaders of the contesting parties held rallies and road shows across the state and made several promises to seek votes for their respective party candidates.

During the election campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP President JP Nadda, Union Minister Rajnath Singh and Chouhan, among others, addressed rallies to garner support for the BJP candidates.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, party leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh, among others, addressed rallies for their party candidates.

After the election announcement, Modi made nine visits to the state and addressed 14 public meetings. BJP has full faith in the charisma of the Prime Minister to retain power.

After the 2018 elections, Congress emerged as the largest party with 114 seats and formed the government under the leadership of Kamal Nath with the help of BSP, SP and independent MLAs.

However, in March 2020, the Kamal Nath government fell following the rebellion of Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and Congress MLAs loyal to him, paving the way for the return of the Chouhan-led BJP government.

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