The fifth phase of the general election was held Monday, 6 May, for 51 seats across seven states where 656 candidates contested. Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal were the states in the fray. West Bengal recorded the highest turnout with 74.15 percent, while Jammu and Kashmir saw the lowest voter turnout at 17.07 percent. The Lok Sabha constituency that recorded the highest turnout was Bangaon at 76.18 percent, while Anantnag saw the least polling at 2.38 percent. Rajasthan saw 63.36 percent turnout till 7 pm. Ganganagar and Karauli-Dholpur constituency saw the highest and lowest turnout at 73.99 percent and 54.96 percent respectively.
Poll boycott across Hindi heartland
Similar to the previous phases and state Assembly elections, several regions across the Hindi heartland called for a poll boycott. Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh — which saw polling in four, fourteen and seven seats today — saw the maximum number of boycotts.
In Madhya Pradesh’s Tikamgarh Lok Sabha constituency, villagers of Babai called for an election boycott. For the past few months, complaining of an increase in air pollution and disease, villagers have been demanding a ban on Crawler Drill machines and blasting techniques in mines. Yadveer Singh Yadav, a Babai local said, “We warned authorities about our boycott, but they failed to take any action. Due to mining work, our village is suffering.”
Under Tikamgarh constituency, villagers of Niwari, Badora and Nandgaon Kala opted for a boycott. They claimed authorities and local administration have not paid heed to demands for a continuous supply of clean drinking water. In Badora, voting resumed only five hours after authorities rushed to persuade voters. In Niwari, however, adamant villagers insisted that a written commitment be given for the fulfilment of their demands by the local electoral officer, who flatly refused. As a result, villagers did not turn up to vote. Tikamgarh recorded 62.19 percent voter turnout as of 7 pm.
Voters from Beohara and Atarahai under Rewa and Khajuraho constituencies also called for an election boycott. Ram Gopal Sharma, a local from Beohara, said their demand for a polling booth within their village was ignored by authorities. The closest polling booth is about four kilometres away which prevents most residents, including senior citizens, from voting. “There is a school in the village and the authorities could have made this a polling booth but everyone has ignored our demand,” he said. Atarahai villagers said their demands for clean and frequent water supply have repeatedly been ignored due to which they have decided to boycott the elections. Rewa recorded 54.66 polling percentage, while Khajuraho saw 60.18 percent voter turnout.
In Amethi — a Gandhi family stronghold — villagers at booth 125 under Rebha Gram Sabha decided to boycott the elections due to lack of a railway crossing. Of the 5,000 to 7,000 who use the Rebha railway station as a shortcut, several die on a daily basis. Before the last election, an announcement was put up regarding details of an underbridge construction project. However, no work has been carried out. Not a single voter turned up at the polling booth. Infrastructural development was again the reason behind villagers of Poore Prem boycotting the elections. Their demands for road connectivity have been left unfulfilled, forcing them to say “no road, no vote.” Amethi saw 48.56 percent voter turnout up to 7 pm.
Voting was boycotted in Maholi village under Sitapur constituency, with locals claiming an absence of infrastructural development in the region. Locals of Jahanpur village, under Fatehpur Lok Sabha seat, also saw fit to boycott the elections as a means to demand justice for the recent killing of a child. The sector magistrate said villagers claimed they would vote only once the family received justice. Sitapur and Fatehpur saw 59.59 percent and 55.25 percent polling till 6 pm.
At booth 104 in Lodhma village under Hazaribagh constituency in Jharkhand, no local turned up to vote. Villagers have called for a poll boycott, demanding that their village be included in the district map. In Hazaribagh, 62.91 percent turnout was recorded till 7 pm.
When demands for clean and continuous drinking water supply and other basic infrastructural development went unheeded, residents of villages such as Kasba Nagar and Khuda Chainpur under Karauli-Dholpur constituency and Mothadi under Churu constituency opted to boycott the elections. The sub-divisional magistrate and superintendent of police’s efforts to convince around 782 residents of from Kasba Nagar in Dholpur district initially went in vain. It was only after four-and-a-half hours that a few villagers went to vote. Similarly, in Khuda Chainpur village, sub-divisional magistrate Kailash Chand Sharma had to persuade villagers boycotting over lack of road construction in the area to vote. Churu saw a voter turnout of 65.20 percent, while Karauli Dholpur recorded 54.96 percent voting as of 7 pm.
Sporadic violence in West Bengal
Keeping up the trend of the past four phases, West Bengal witnessed several incidents of violence across its seven seats. Clashes between TMC and BJP supporters across the state left many hospitalised. Pranab Mondal Saha, BJP district president, was beaten allegedly by TMC workers in Hooghly, while Locket Chatterjee — BJP candidate for Hooghly seat — alleged that her car was vandalised by TMC supporters. She also earlier claimed that ‘rigging’ was taking place in Hooghly.
Arjun Singh, BJP candidate from Barrackpore, was attacked in Amdanga allegedly by Opposition supporters. Arjun was travelling with a media convoy when he was assailed by locals. Tapas Sengupta, a journalist working with News X Bengal, was also hospitalised.
Other stray incidents were also recorded: In Howrah, two cases were reported of BJP workers being beaten up allegedly by TMC workers, while TMC activist Sheikh Mohammad Ferdous Ali was attacked allegedly by Opposition party workers after voting at booth 107 under Arambagh Lok Sabha constituency. Reports also surfaced of bombs and shots fired at booths 118 and 119 in Hingli, under Bangaon constituency.
A delegation led by Bengal BJP vice-president Jay Prakash Majumdar, and Sishir Bajoria, member of the election committee, met the chief electoral officer over demands of repolling. Majumdar said, “We are keeping a close watch on violence. We've shortlisted Hooghly, Barrackpore and Bangaon. More could be added."
As always, West Bengal constituencies recorded a high polling percentage. As of 7 pm, Hooghly was at 76.14 percent, Barrackpore at 71.28 percent, Bangaon at 76.18 percent, Howrah at 67.59 percent and Arambagh at 75.73 percent.
Attacks in Kashmir
Compared to the last four phases that saw peaceful voting, the fifth phase witnessed several grenade and petrol bomb attacks in south Kashmir’s Shopian and Anantnag. Grenades were launched by unidentified militants at polling stations in Pulwama’s Chatpora and Ruhama areas. No casualties have been reported. Clashes and stone-pelting in Nadpora village, in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, left several protesters and a DSP of Jammu and Kashmir Police wounded.
Both districts went for last leg of polling under Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency on Monday amid unprecedented security cover. Meanwhile, Anantnag and Ladakh recorded 2.38 percent and 61.20 percent polling percentage, respectively.
With inputs from A Ghose, Saurabh Sharma, Yawar Shafi, and Manish Chandra Mishra.
The authors are members of 101Reporters, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters
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Updated Date: May 06, 2019 21:59:32 IST