Millions vote; Modi’s lotus triggers row

May 01, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

New Delhi: Some 83 million voted in 89 Lok Sabha constituencies across India yesterday, a day an FIR was slapped against BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi for showing off his party symbol close to a polling booth.

Braving the scorching summer, about 60 percent of the 139 million electorate trooped to over 150,000 polling stations in seven states and two union territories to pick 89 MPs from among 1,200 candidates including Congress President Sonia Gandhi (Rae Bareli), BJP President Rajnath Singh (Lucknow) and BJP patriarch L K Advani (Gandhinagar).

Yesterday marked the end of the eighth phase of 10-phased balloting that ends May 12 to elect a 543 members to the Lok Sabha, in which two members are nominated. The votes will be counted on May 16. Polling is now over in 438 constituencies and wholly in 21 states.

Modi, the Gujarat chief minister, courted a controversy when he displayed a lotus symbol near the polling booth in Gandhinagar where he voted. He also clicked a selfie.

Opposition parties, including the Congress and the AAP, were quick to complain that this violated the model code of conduct. On the urging of the poll panel, the Gujarat authorities filed a police complaint against Modi.

Congress General Secretary Ajay Maken said: “We appeal to the Election Commission to ask the Gujarat government not to come under pressure of the chief minister.” The complaint was lodged at the Ahmedabad City police station.

Heavy polling took place in Punjab (73 percent), Daman and Diu (76 percent) and Andhra Pradesh (70 percent). West Bengal saw a staggering 81 percent voter turnout.

Polling in Uttar Pradesh was around 57 percent, while in Bihar and Gujarat, it crossed the 60 percent mark. Vadodara, from where Modi is contesting, recorded 70 percent turnout, while Rae Bareli, the constituency of Sonia Gandi, saw just over 51 percent of electors casting their ballots.

Balloting took place in Gujarat (26 Lok Sabha seats), Andhra Pradesh (17), Uttar Pradesh (14), Punjab (13), West Bengal (9), Bihar (7) and Jammu and Kashmir, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu (one constituency each).

After voting in Gandhinagar, Modi flew to Bihar where he addressed a rally in Ujiyarpur Lok Sabha constituency calling for “a strong government in the country”.

“It is certain a new government led by the BJP will be formed,” he said, predicting a defeat for the Congress-led UPA government.

All 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat and all 13 in Punjab voted yesterday. 

Punjab is witnessing some high-profile electoral battles. The most keenly watched contest is in Amritsar where the BJP’s Arun Jaitley, fighting a Lok Sabha election for the first time, is pitted against former chief minister Amarinder Singh of the Congress. 

Heavy polling took place in West Bengal, following which the Communist Party of India-Marxist alleged “widespread rigging, violence and capture of polling booths” by the Trinamool Congress.

“Hundreds of polling booths were affected in Bolpur, Birbhum, Bardhaman Purba, Bardhaman-Durgapur, Howrah and Uluberia Lok Sabha constituencies,” it said, demanding a re-poll. “Polling agents of the CPM and the Left Front were driven out in a number of booths and blatant false voting has taken place in the presence of polling personnel,” the party added.

Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi said polling was peaceful and no untoward incidents were reported, “except a few cases of boycott in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat”.

On reports of booth capturing in West Bengal, he said the poll panel will scrutinise the report of election observers and the video recordings. “If the reports are found to be true, we may go for repoll in those booths,” he said.

Election Commission Director General Akshay Rout said that in polling held so far in 28 states, “26 states recorded higher turnouts than the last Lok Sabha election (in 2009) and 14 states recorded the highest ever turnout”.