The world's largest democratic exercise began Thursday with crores of Indians coming out to vote to elect 91 parliamentarians in the first phase of over-a-month-long Lok Sabha polls for which the Modi government has made nationalism its core pitch to retain power amid a fragmented challenge from Congress and a number of regional players.
Election officials said voter turnout was high at most places, while poll-related violence saw the death of two persons in Andhra Pradesh and complaints poured in from various states about glitches in electronic voting machines and of names missing from the voter lists.
The 91 Lok Sabha constituencies in the first phase, spread across 18 states and two union territories, have more than 14 crore voters -- about one-sixth of nearly 90 crore total electorate in India. Votes for all 543 seats would be counted on May 23 after the end of the seven-phase polling on May 19.
Voter turnout in first phase of Lok Sabha elections:
Voting percentage till 6pm
|S. No.||Name of State|| |
|6||Jammu and Kashmir||54.49%|
|19||Andaman and Nicobar Islands||70.76%|
According to the voter turnout figures available till 5pm, almost every state registered over 50 per cent polling, with Northeastern states crossing the 80 per cent mark. Exact voter turnouts will be announced by the Election Commission shortly.
Violence, reports of EVM glitches and missing names mar round one of Election 2019:
Election 2019 kicked off to a troubled start on Thursday with two people being killed in clashes in Andhra Pradesh, an IED blast in Maharashtra, reports of EVM glitches and multiple complaints from voters about their names not being on the electoral list.
Clashes in Andhra:
In Andhra Pradesh, where elections are being held for 25 Lok Sabha and 175 Assembly seats, one worker from the ruling Telugu Desam Party and one from the main opposition YSR Congress were killed in a clash in a village in Tadipatri Assembly constituency in Anantapuramu district
The TDP and YSRCP also clashed in other parts of the state as well with reports of stone-throwing and allegations of attacks and vandalism coming in from Eluru city as well as from Jammalamadugu in Kadapa district and Narsaraopet constituency in Guntur district.
Elsewhere in the state, Madhusudan Gupta, a candidate of the Jana Sena Party, was arrested after he smashed an EVM in Guntakal, alleging that party symbols were not properly printed on the ballot unit.
Naxal attacks in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh:
In Maharashtra, Naxals triggered an IED blast near a polling booth in Waghezari area of Gadchiroli district while voting was underway, police said. There were no casualties.
In the Naxal stronghold of Chhattigarh, four guerrillas were arrested and firearms seized from them in Bijapur district while the poll process was underway.
In the early hours of the morning, Naxals detonated an IED in Narayanpur in Bastar region. No casualties were reported here too.
Many miles away, an IED was detected in an oil pipeline passing through a tea garden in Assam’s Dibrugarh district. Security forces rushed to the spot to ensure there is no trouble.
Firing, violence and EVM glitches in UP:
In Kairana in western Uttar Pradesh, BSF personnel fired in the air at a polling booth when some people, who were not carrying their identity cards, tried to forcibly enter the premises to cast their votes, police said.
If the sporadic incidents of violence was one worry, the other was the reports of EVM glitches and voters not being allowed to exercise their franchise.
Allegations of deleted names of voters
Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal took to Twitter and tagged people who claimed their names or the names of their relatives have been deleted from voter lists. "What is happening EC? Are these elections fair?" Kejriwal asked.
"Anti-BJP votes deleted all across India. Reports coming from all across India that votes have been deleted on unprecedented scale. Why are all faulty EVM machines seen to be voting always for BJP?" he said in a tweet.
Businessperson Kiran Mazumdar Shaw’s mother was one of those whose name was deleted.
"My mother's voter ID has been deleted on some flimsy excuse that there was a report that she no longer lives at her address. She is so upset I can't tell you becos she has been at the same address for 19 years. So much for 'verification'," Shaw said in a tweet.
Allegations of armed forces beating voters
In Jammu and Kashmir, the National Conference and the PDP alleged that uniformed personnel coerced people to vote for the BJP and EVMs malfunctioned in some places with the Congress button not working during polling in Jammu's Poonch area. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted a video showing voters raising anti-BJP slogans after they were purportedly roughed up by the BSF for not voting for the BJP. "Using armed forces at polling stations to coerce people to vote for the BJP shows their desperation & hunger to usurp power by hook or crook," PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said in her tweet.
According to National Conference's Jammu provincial president Davinder Singh Rana, a uniformed officer coerced voters in Poonch's Arai Malka area to vote for the BJP. A local administration official reached the spot and the uniformed officer has been removed following complaints by the voters, he said.
National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah posted a video of presiding officer from Poonch area explaining the malfunctioning of an EVM button. Assuring that voting, which was stalled in some polling booths in Poonch region, would soon resume, the presiding officer was asked which button was not working."Haath ka button (button showing hand)," he said. The hand is the election symbol of Congress party.
What was at stake for political parties in round one:
In Andhra Pradesh, In Andhra Pradesh, anti-incumbency, caste and corruption are the major factors that could determine the outcome of the elections to Lok Sabha and the state assembly. The state has 3.93 crore voters and this is the first general election there after bifurcation of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh in 2014. There are 2,118 candidates for the state polls and 319 for the Lok Sabha elections there.TDP chief and CM N Chandrababu Naidu is seeking election from Kuppam, while his son Nara Lokesh is making his electoral debut from Mangalagiri. YSR Congress chief Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, an aspirant for the CM's post, is fighting from his family's pocketborough Pulivendula.
In Telangana, the ruling TRS is hoping for an encore in Lok Sabha polls after sweeping the December assembly elections, while both Congress and BJP are looking to increase their respective tallies. There are 443 candidates in the fray for 17 Lok Sabha seats from the state.
In Uttar Pradesh, BJP is facing the newly-formed SP-BSP-RLD alliance. In Muzaffarnagar, RLD chief Ajit Singh will take on BJP's Sanjeev Balyan, while his son Jayant Chaudhary is pitted against Union minister Satyapal Singh in Baghpat.
In Maharashtra, Naxals triggered an IED blast near a polling booth in the state's Gadchroli district while voting was underway. There were no casualties, officials said. Union Minister Gadkari faces Congress's Nana Patole, a former BJP MP in Nagpur, while his party colleague Hansaraj Ahir is seeking a fourth term from Chandrapur.
In Bihar, LJP leader Chirag Paswan is contesting from Jamui against Bhudeo Chaudhary of RLSP.
In the North East, Union Minister Rijiju is seeking re-election from Arunachal West. In Assam, former CM Tarun Gogoi's son Gaurav is in the fray in Kaliabor.
In Chhattisgarh's Bastar, security has been tightened following a Naxal attack in the constituency's Dantewada area on Tuesday. A BJP leader and four security personnel were killed.
Highlights of the first phase of Lok Sabha elections:
#More than 14 crore people are listed to vote in the first phase, held in 91 Lok Sabha constituencies spread across 18 states and two union territories.
#In the first phase, the BJP is looking to defend 32 seats, including those being fought by senior party leader Nitin Gadkari and five other union ministers, and also expand its tally in states dominated by regional players last time.
#The main opposition party Congress is hoping to defend seven seats it won in 2014, besides eyeing gains in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
#Voting also took place in 175 assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh, 32 in Sikkim, 57 in Arunachal Pradesh and 28 seats in Odisha.
#The first-phase Lok Sabha constituencies include all 25 seats in Andhra Pradesh, 17 in Telangana, five in Uttarakhand, two in Meghalaya, two in Arunachal Pradesh and lone seats in Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur, Nagaland, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar, and Lakshadweep.
#Besides, eight seats in Uttar Pradesh, seven in Maharashtra, five in Assam, four each in Bihar and Odisha, two each in Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal and one seat in Chhattisgarh are also part of the first-phase. These states are having multi-phase voting. Election officials put the voting percentage till early afternoon at 40-50 per cent in most states.
#Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking another term in power, focusing his election campaign on national security and flagship schemes. The Congress has promised to roll out a minimum income scheme, named 'Nyay', to provide a minimum basic income of Rs 72,000 a year for three years to the poorest strata.
#Congress under Rahul Gandhi has been relentlessly targeting the Modi government and has also accused it of corruption. Gandhi said Thursday in Rae Bareli after his mother Sonia Gandhi filed nomination papers that the election results would prove that Modi is "not invincible".
#An estimated 1.5 crore young voters in the age group of 18-19 years would vote for the first time across the seven phases.
#In the last general elections in 2014, more than 55 crore Indians had voted (66.3 per cent) with the BJP emerging victorious with little over 30 per cent votes, giving a five-year mandate to a government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
(With inputs from PTI)