Enthusiastic turnout in Madhya Pradesh poll

Bhopal, Nov 25 (IANS) An enthusiastic turnout was witnessed in the single-phase election to the 230-strong Madhya Pradesh assembly Monday with long queues of voters at polling booths and a 26 percent voting registered till 12 a.m., an Election Commission official said.

No major untoward incident has been reported so far, said the official.

Polling began at 7 p.m. in three assembly constituencies in Balaghat district, where Maoists are active, and at 8 a.m. in the other 227 constituencies amid tight vigil by police and paramilitary personnel. A helicopter was deployed in Balaghat and Singrauli districts.

The fate of 2,586 candidates will be decided by over 4.66 crore (46 million) voters of the state. The main contest is between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress. The results will be out Dec 8.

Braving the cold morning, many voters queued up at some polling centres even before these opened. As the sun rose, the lines of waiting voters started to lengthen.

For the first time, the "none of the above" (NOTA) option has beden made available to the voters on the electronic voting machines.

In the 2008 polls, the BJP retained power winning 143 seats while the Congress won 71.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is contesting from his traditional Budhni constituency as well as from Vidisha, said that his dream was to take Madhya Pradesh among the ranks of developed states. He was talking to reporters before setting out to vote in his home village in Sehore district.

Among the other prominent BJP candidates in the fray are former chief minister Babulal Gaur, who is contesting from Govindpura constituency in Bhopal district, state minister Kailash Vijayvargiya from Mhow in Indore, and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's nephew Anoop Mishra from Bhitarvar in Gwalior.

BJP's Yashodara Raje Scindia is contesting against her nephew and union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is being projected as the Congress' unofficial chief ministerial candidate, from Shivpuri in Gwalior.

Other prominent Congress candidates include former union minister Suresh Pachauri from Bhojpur, Leader of Opposition in the assembly Ajay Singh from Churhat, Digvijaya Singh's son Jaivardhan Singh, who is contesting from Raghogarh, and Sachin Yadav, son of former deputy chief minister Subhash Yadav, standing from Kasravad.

Union Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath asserted the Congress is on its way to winning 140 seats in the state, where it has been out of power since 1998, as the people wanted to be free of the corrupt BJP regime.

Talking to reporters after voting in his Chhindwara constituency, he said the state's youth, farmers and common people wanted a change.