Bhopal: The state of Madhya Pradesh is all set to go to the polls on November 17, 2023, to elect the 230 members of the legislative assembly. The voting will take place from 7 am to 6 pm in all the districts of the state, except for the three Naxal-affected districts of Mandla, Balaghat, and Dindori, where the voting will end at 3 pm due to security reasons. The Election Commission of India has made elaborate arrangements to ensure a peaceful and fair voting process in the state, which has witnessed a high-octane campaign by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the main opposition Congress party.
According to the Chief Electoral Officer of the state, Anupam Rajan, who held a press conference in Bhopal on the eve of the voting, a total of 64,626 polling stations have been set up across the state, out of which 17,032 have been identified as sensitive or hypersensitive. The polling teams have been dispatched to the polling stations on Monday morning and will stay there overnight. The polling personnel will be provided with adequate security and medical facilities, including an air ambulance and two helicopters, which will be deployed in the state till the end of the voting. The air ambulance will be stationed in Jabalpur, while one helicopter will be kept in Balaghat and another in Bhopal for any emergency services.
The state has more than 5.59 crore registered voters, out of which 6 lakh are above 80 years of age and 4 thousand are above 100 years of age. This time, the state also has more than 22 lakh first-time voters, who will exercise their franchise for the first time. A total of 2,533 candidates are in the fray for the 230 assembly seats, out of which the maximum number of candidates, 36, are contesting from the Ater constituency in Bhind district. The Election Commission has also set up 60 green booths, which will be manned by women and will use eco-friendly materials.
The voters will be able to cast their votes even if they do not have a voter ID card, as the Election Commission has approved 12 other identity cards and documents, such as PAN cards, Aadhaar cards, passbooks, pension cards, etc. However, the voters will have to ensure that their names are present in the voter list, which can be checked online or through SMS. The Election Commission has also distributed voter slips to the voters, which will help them locate their polling stations and booths.
The assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh are being seen as a crucial test for both the BJP and the Congress, as they will reflect the mood and mandate of the people ahead of the general elections in 2024. The BJP is banking on the popularity and performance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, while the Congress is hoping to regain the trust and confidence of the voters under the leadership of former Chief Minister Kamal Nath and state President Arun Yadav. The elections are also expected to witness a close contest between the two parties on various issues, such as COVID-19 management, farm laws, unemployment, development, corruption, law and order, etc. The elections will also decide the fate and future of many prominent and influential leaders, such as Jyotiraditya Scindia, Digvijaya Singh, Uma Bharti, Narottam Mishra, Sajjan Singh Verma, etc.