The fourth phase of the 17th Lok Sabha elections was held on Monday across 71 parliamentary seats from the states of Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.
Just like the third phase, West Bengal recorded the maximum voter turnout among all the states that went to polls. The eight seats in West Bengal saw a turnout of over 76 percent till 6 pm. Madhya Pradesh recorded the second highest voting percentage in the fourth phase at close to 66 percent. Maharashtra once again saw a poor voter turnout. The 17 seats in the state witnessed an average of just a little above 50 percent voter turnout as of 6 pm.
Voting concluded in Maharashtra with this phase, with its final 17 seats going for elections. This included high-profile constituencies like Mumbai South, from where Congress leader and former MP Milind Deora is contesting, and Mumbai North Central, that is witnessing a clash between incumbent BJP MP Poonam Mahajan and Congress’ Priya Dutt. Both Mahajan and Dutt are daughters of prominent figures — Pramod Mahajan and Sunil Dutt. Bollywood celebrities like Kareena Kapoor-Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan showed up with their families to vote. While voting was carried out peacefully across the state, the Election Commission received at least 30 complaints of EVM malfunctioning, primarily from Dhule and Nandurbar constituencies.
The states of Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh voted in the first phase of their general elections, with three, twelve and six seats going to the polls respectively. The remaining seats in these states have been spread across the final three phases. Constituencies in Rajasthan recorded a voting turnout of 62.82 percent, while the figure in Jharkhand was 63.42 percent.
Calls for boycott
Reminiscent of the 2018 state Assembly elections, several villages across Rajasthan called for a boycott of the general elections, citing lack of infrastructural development. Some of them included Sodawas, Khanpur under Jhalawar Lok Sabha seat and Mahamandir in Jodhpur.
By 9 am, the Election Commission had already received 88 complaints of EVM malfunctioning in Rajasthan. Authorities reached the locations to replace the machines and resumed voting.
Clashes between rival parties regarding voter intimidation and complaints of fake voting also took place in Barmer, Raniwad and Sirohi. In Barmer, three people were injured in such clashes and were rushed to the hospital.
In Jharkhand’s first phase, voting was carried out peacefully, according to L Khyangte, chief election officer.
However, allegations of missing voters cropped up at a polling booth in Sisai, under Lohardaga constituency. Based on inputs, about 50 names were left off the voting list. These included several individuals who had voted in the previous state and general elections held in 2014.
Madhya Pradesh, like Rajasthan, saw several villages boycotting the elections. Across Lok Sabha constituencies Dindori and Shahdol, a looming water crisis and lack of canals were put forward as reasons for boycott. In Sidhi, lack of infrastructural development pushed residents to boycott voting in this election. Across these regions, villagers refused to step out and exercise their franchise until their demands were fulfilled. In villages where a call for boycott was put forward, polling officers were sent to the spot in an attempt to persuade voters.
Jammu and Kashmir witnessed low voter turnout at its only seat, Kulgam, in Anantnag. At a polling booth in Yaripora, only 13 out of 2,300 turned up. Similarly, several polling booths recorded zero voting even till afternoon. A stray incident of stone-pelting took place as well. However, no injuries were reported. A polling percentage of 9.79 percent was recorded in Kulgam by 6 pm.
West Bengal, sticking to its trend from the last three phases, saw sporadic incidents of violence taking place across its seven seats that went to vote today — primarily in Asansol and Birbhum Lok Sabha constituencies. Clashes between Congress, BJP and TMC workers over allegations of booth capturing, rigging, and using intimidation and physical violence against voters led to several injuries. The clashes required the immediate intervention by the CRPF personnel deployed on the ground. BJP’s Babul Supriyo, incumbent MP from Asansol, alleged mass rigging across voting booths in Jamuria and Raniganj. The EC also received several notices from the TMC and BJP, each accusing the other of violating the model code of conduct.
Odisha, which sent six seats for election today, witnessed minor bursts of violence in Kendrapara between BJD and BJP supporters. Due to the clashes, two BJP workers suffered injuries. In another incident, a Congress worker, Lachman Behera, was allegedly stabbed to death in Noliasahi, in Balikuda-Erasama, after voting. EVM malfunctioning was also reported from Bhadrak, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Mayurbhanj constituencies, where voting was delayed by more than an hour. Jajpur, Mayurbhanj and Kendrapara also saw a call for election boycott by voters. In Sukinda Assembly seat, under Jajpur Lok Sabha constituency, voters boycotted polls as they complained of the district administration’s inefficiency and inaction in shifting them from the Kalinganagar industrial area. Three polling officials were also suspended after being caught on a CCTV camera influencing voters in Jajpur. Odisha recorded 64 percent polling by 6 pm.
Uttar Pradesh and Bihar witnessed EVM malfunctioning, scattered incidents of clashes and calls for election boycott.
EVM malfunctioning was reported in Uttar Pradesh’s Kannauj, Hamirpur, Kanpur and Shahjahanpur, among others. Bihar reported technical glitches in Lakhimpur Dariyapur, under Ujiarpur Lok Sabha seat. Clashes were reported between rival party supporters in Shahjahanpur, Kannauj, Lakhisarai and Munger in Uttar Pradesh. However, no major injuries were reported in these regions. People disappointed over poor infrastructure boycotted elections in Bihar’s Samastipur and Uttar Pradesh’s Hardoi and Farrukhabad.
Bihar recorded 57.71 percent polling, while Uttar Pradesh saw a 54.16 percent turnout till 6 pm.
Elections officers among 5 dead
Some individuals, including election officers, lost their lives at polling booths today.
In Jodhpur, Shaitan Singh, a booth-level officer in Setrawa village, died after slipping down a staircase while on duty. Suresh Chand Paliwal, another polling official deployed at Vallabh Nagar polling station in Udaipur, died while on duty. He fainted at the polling station and after being rushed to MB hospital in Udaipur city, was declared dead by doctors. A woman passed away right after casting her vote in Rajasthan's Rajsamand constituency. Bheem Sub-Division's SDM Suman Sonal said that Badnam Bai, resident of Bahar village, visited the polling booth at 9:30 am. She reportedly started feeling uneasy right after voting and was declared dead after being rushed to the hospital.
One Ompal Singh, a resident of Baghauli village in Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh, died while waiting in line to vote. Similarly, at booth 61 in Darbhanga Lok Sabha seat, Bihar, 70-year-old Reetlal Ray suffered a heart attack while on his way to vote. A polling official, Sagarika Nayak, was hospitalised after she fell sick, reportedly due to heat exhaustion in Soro, under Balasore Lok Sabha constituency. She has been admitted to the Community Health Centre in Soro.
With inputs from Bibhuti Mohapatra, Ashwin Aghor and A Ghose
(The author is a Hyderabad-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com)
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Updated Date: Apr 29, 2019 22:59:12 IST