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Poll officials heave sigh of relief

By M. Malleswara Rao

HYDERABAD, MAY 12. Election officials, including the Chief Electoral Officer, M. Narayana Rao, were greatly relieved on Wednesday after 73 days of hectic activity since February 29 when the election schedule was announced.

The first part of the election process covering the Assembly, stretched over the longest-ever period tested the endurance limits of officials as well, came to a close with the announcement of results. And that was a partial respite, ending their sleepless nights. The effort was not without a reward. They have given the State a new batch of 294 legislators.

Even on day 74 on Wednesday, the officials were seen grappling with various figures and numbers for tabulating the results in a bid to prepare the records of the results for the Election Commission and the posterity.

For a few others, there was no break from regular meetings and reviews as the counting of votes for the 42 Lok Sabha seats slated for tomorrow.

The counting for the Assembly seats was marked by eight incidents in three districts, Nalgonda, Warangal and Karimnagar, in which the display-board of the electronic voting machines failed to show up the votes on the screen. The snag continued even after "rectification" carried out with the replacement of the board with an auxiliary one. The officials had to "ignore" the EVMs without counting on the ground that the total votes in each of them would not be able to fill the gap for the runner-up against the huge margin scored by the winner by then. The total votes were indicated by the sealed covers attached to the machines by the presiding officer.

Looking back at the end of the process which began a year ago in the State with the issuing of photo-identity cards and fresh enrolments under summary revision of rolls, Mr. Narayana Rao said he was "highly satisfied" in more than one way. Ceaseless work for months had gone into the process leading to yesterday's results. "I can't deny that the work would have been much better but at the same time, it has not been worse."

The CEO and his officers said the major achievement was fresh enrolment of 25 lakh voters, weeding out of 93 lakh voters who "would have played havoc" on the electoral system, and a 69 per cent turnout by voters giving a clear and loud message that they are not "indifferent" to the democratic system.

Mr. Rao was also elated that poll violence in these elections was on low side which was reflected by the fact that re-polling was ordered in only 121 polling stations compared to more than 250 in 1999.

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