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Lok Sabha polls second phase: 66% voter turnout recorded despite EVM malfunctions and sporadic violence

Bengaluru: The second phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections saw a total voter turnout of 66 percent. Given that voting in the larger states in the Hindi belt is spread across five to seven phases, the focus at the end of the first two phases has mostly been on four southern states, excluding Kerala. All 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala will go to polls in the third phase on 23 April.

A strong showing in the total of 129 seats in these five southern states is crucial for both Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi to achieve their ambitions in Delhi. Both tried with mixed success to stitch alliances in all the states. In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where polling was completed on 11 April, neither was able to form an alliance with any of the regional parties.

In Tamil Nadu, which had polling on Thursday and saw over 60 percent turnout, the two main Dravidian parties AIADMK and DMK, allied with the BJP and Congress respectively, have a long wait to see which way the voters have swung.

Karnataka saw two important firsts. One, for the first time, Congress and JD(S) are contesting as allies. And two, for the first time, two grandsons of a former prime minister are in the fray and both facing strong challenges.

The state recorded a voter turnout of 66.63 percent till 7 pm.

 Lok Sabha polls second phase: 66% voter turnout recorded despite EVM malfunctions and sporadic violence

Polling officials seal ballot boxes at a polling station in Tamil Nadu. Image courtesy: Abdul Kathar

These 14 seats — in Bengaluru, the old Mysore region and the coastal belt — were evenly split in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, with BJP and Congress winning six each and the JD(S) two. On paper, poll percentage arithmetic would indicate the Congress coalition winning a majority of these seats. But present voting patterns rarely follow past percentages, especially when undercurrents of resentment in the coalition ranks are plainly visible over seat allocation and candidate selection.

It is in these 14 seats that the alliance really has to deliver if the Congress is to make a sizeable dent into the BJP numbers. But the automatic transfer of all Vokkaliga votes to the Congress is far from sure. With JD(S) having little clout in the remaining seats going to the polls on 23 April, these 14 seats are critical if the Congress is to reverse the 2014 result which saw BJP winning 17 of the state’s 28 seats.

Countrywide, the second phase covered 95 seats in 11 states and Puducherry, a Union Territory.

Maharashtra, where the Shiv Sena-BJP tie up is up against the Congress-NCP alliance, had some big names from all the parties in the ten seats that saw about the same turnout as in the first phase: 57 percent. These big names included former chief minister and MP Ashok Chavan, former Union minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, daughter of senior BJP leader late Gopinath Munde and a sitting MP Pritam Munde, and Shiv Sena's Anand Adsul. During the 2014 elections, NDA had swept these seats.

Since the ten seats were spread across Vidarbha, Marathwada and southern Maharashtra, soaring temperatures saw voters reach polling booths early. Political parties and the administration worked hard to get people to vote, wanting to exceed the 56 percent first phase voter turnout.

Only three seats saw voting in Chhattisgarh — Mahasamund, Rajnandgaon and the reserved Kanker seat. Polling was expected to exceed the first phase’s 56 percent. Voters did turn out in sufficient numbers, the turnout being 70 percent. Basanta Bai, 65, preferred to vote first and then get admitted to hospital. “This festival arrives once in five years, health conditions go up and down,” said Basanta. As per latest reports, seven villages of Gariaband district reportedly boycotted the polls, demanding a bridge at Senmunda Ghat on Telnadi. Only four votes were registered from these seven villages.

Except for Assam, which saw five seats vote in each of the two phases, all the other north-eastern states are done with voting and have all registered high voter turnout of over 65 percent in both phases, with Tripura, where one seat saw voter turnout of 81 percent in the first phase. The only other constituency which could see voter turnout close to this number is Mandya in Karnataka, where the chief minister’s son was pitted against late actor Ambareesh’s wife Sumalatha, who had BJP’s support.

Assam is witnessing some interesting contests in seats like Silchar, where it is a close fight between BJP's Rajdeep Roy and Sushmita Dev, the sitting Congress MP. BJP spokespersons Rupam Goswami and Subhas Dutta claimed “the state is going to be a Ram Rajya”. EVM malfunction was reported in areas like Nagaon, Karimganj and parts of Dima Hasao district (North Cachar Hills Dist). “I am waiting since 9 am, but unable to cast my vote because EVM is not working,” said a voter in Mongoldoi.

Polling in Inner Manipur constituency saw some incidents of violence in which EVMs were destroyed. Bishesh Huirem, 29, who represented India at the Miss International Queen in 2016, a beauty pageant for transgender women, said she would vote for the right candidate and not for a political party. The transgender beauty queen was chosen as an election icon for the second time in 2019.

The worst incidents of violence were reported from Mamata Banerjee's West Bengal, where only three seats voted in the first phase, with a turnout of 76 percent.

Some violence took place in all the three seats voting on Thursday — Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Raiganj. In Raiganj, the CPM candidate’s vehicle was pelted with stones. Veteran Left leader and CPM MP Md Salim's car was attacked with bricks. A BJP worker, Shishupal Sahis, was found hanging from a tree in Purulia. The state’s BJP leaders have filed a complaint with the Election Commission.

In Odisha, a female poll officer, Sanjukta Digal, was killed by Naxals in Kandhamal district when headed towards the polling booth along with her team. EC has announced a compensation of Rs 30 lakh to Digal’s family. In Odisha, the second phase saw polling for five Lok Sabha seats and 35 Assembly segments. EVM malfunction was reported from several places, but did not cause any major disruption in voting. Voter turnout was 57.81 percent.

With inputs from Angarika Gogoi, Ashwin Aghor and KN Kishore

PIc by: Abdul Kathar

(The author is a Bengaluru-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com.)

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Updated Date: Apr 18, 2019 23:00:28 IST