‘Tense’ 48 hours of a poll manager

Written By Unknown on Kamis, 16 Oktober 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: BJP's Ashish Shelar is locked in a tough battle against sitting MLA Baba Siddique of the Congress in Bandra (west). The odds rose against him after the BJP-Shiv Sena break-up, but the young lawyer has staked it all on this contest.

As V-Day approached, the person who was perhaps as jittery as Shelar, if not more, was 61-year-old Ajeet Manyal, the BJP candidate's poll manager. The person in the ring is the face of the fight, but much of the success depends on those toiling away in the backrooms. For an election candidate, it is the poll manager. In a multi-cornered contest like Wednesday's, it becomes even more crucial to have the right person at the right place. Doing it for Shelar was Manyal, a BJP member who described the last 48 hours as "nerve-racking" and said he had got little sleep in the run-up.

On Wednesday, by 7am, he was at the party office on S V Road in Khar, coordinating with polling agents. But his micro-managing of electioneering started peaking a day before when he held a meeting and took stock of the situation. First, two workers were assigned to each of the 274 booths of the 49 polling stations in the constituency. They were briefed about poll procedures and dispatched with the party's authorization forms to the election officer. Next, Manyal, who's clued into the constituency having contested as a corporator, identified strongholds and deployed workers to urge the people to vote. "Bandra has become a prestige contest after we parted ways with the Sena. We have had to galvanize our cadre," said Manyal, a businessman.

On poll day, Manyal pores over statistics of people voting as the agents relay them from the booths every few hours. If he finds polling in a particular booth not up to expectations, he directs foot soldiers to mobilize voters.

He also monitors "dummy" booths set up near polling centres and the party's helpline, important voter outreach measures. "People turn to us if their names have been deleted from the lists, then we lodge complaints with the election officer," said the poll manager.

The day goes peacefully. Manyal heaves a sigh of relief as polling winds up at 6pm, eager to loan his services to the party for the next election.

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