Over 8,000 candidates were in fray for 542 Lok Sabha seats across the country in the Lok Sabha elections.
New Delhi: Incidents of violence in West Bengal and clashes in Punjab were reported during the seventh and last phase of Lok Sabha polls in 59 seats across eight states on Sunday which brought the curtains down on voting for the marathon seven-phased Lok Sabha elections that logged a record final turnout of 67.37 in 542 parliamentary constituencies.
According to the Election Commission (EC), there was an increase of 1.3 per cent in overall voter turnout this time. The average election turnout over all nine phases in 2014 was around 66%, the highest ever in the history of Indian general elections.
Over 8,000 candidates were in fray for 542 Lok Sabha seats across the country in the Lok Sabha elections. The counting of votes will take place on May 23.
The last phase, which decided the fate of 918 candidates including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, recorded a turnout of 63.98 per cent.
On Sunday, voting took place in 13 seats of Punjab and an equal number of seats in Uttar Pradesh, nine in West Bengal, eight seats each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, four in Himachal Pradesh, three in Jharkhand and the lone seat Chandigarh.
Incidents of violence were reported in West Bengal where 73.51 per cent of over 1.49 crore electorate exercised their franchise. The turnout in Bengal was the highest among the eight states which went to polls on Sunday.
According to BJP’s North Kolkata candidate Rahul Sinha, a crude bomb was hurled near Girish Park in the constituency around noon. The police, however, said crackers were burst in the area and polling was not affected.
In Kolkata South, TMC candidate Mala Roy alleged that she was stopped from entering polling booths.
Sporadic clashes were reported in Kolkata and its surrounding areas, with TMC workers claiming that voters were intimidated by Central forces outside booths.
BJP candidate Nilanjan Roy in Diamond Harbour constituency alleged that his car was vandalised in Budge Budge area. Similar reports also came in from Jadavpur constituency, where BJP candidate Anupam Hazra’s car came under the attack of unidentified men.
“There were also reports of EVM glitches in several polling stations. We have sent reserve EVMs to booths, where the voting process was temporarily hampered due to technical glitches,” said an election official.
There were reports of clashes, allegedly between the BJP and TMC activists, from Kankinada under the Bhatpara Assembly seat where a bypoll was held.
In Uttar Pradesh, 56.84 per cent voting was recorded in 13 Lok Sabha seats, officials said. The turnout in Varanasi was 58.05 per cent while in Gorakhpur it was 57.38 per cent, the EC said.
The highest turnout was 62.40 per cent in Maharajganj, while Ballia reported the lowest turnout of 52.50 per cent.
Violence erupted in Chandauli Lok Sabha constituency, where state BJP chief Mahendra Nath Pandey is seeking re-election, when supporters of the saffron party and the Samajwadi Party clashed.
A report from Chandauli said fingers of dalits had been inked before they could actually cast their vote in Tara Jivanpur village under Alinagar police station. Officials said an FIR was registered in the matter.
There were also reports of poll boycott from certain places in Gorakhpur, Mirzapur, Varanasi and Mau.
Barring stray incidents of clashes, polling remained peaceful in Punjab. At Talwandi Sabo, which falls under Bathinda parliamentary constituency, the Opposition Akali Dal alleged that shots were fired by workers of the ruling Congress in Punjab.
Chief electoral officer S. Karuna Raju said, “An incident of firing was reported in Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda.”
Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, after casting her vote in Bathinda, charged the Punjab government with “misusing” the official machinery to “intimidate” Akali supporters.
Punjab recorded a polling percentage of 59 per cent in 13 Lok Sabha seats. In Chandigarh seat, about 64 per cent turnout was registered. Maximum polling percentage was witnessed at 64.18 in Patiala and the lowest was in Amritsar at 52.47.
In Himachal Pradesh, around 68 per cent turnout was recorded in four Lok Sabha seats where five MLAs, including a state minister, are among the 45 candidates in the fray. EVM snags delayed voting at nine polling stations in the state. In Madhya Pradesh, 71.15 per cent turnout was recorded.
Bihar registered 53.55 per cent voting in eight Lok Sabha seats, the lowest turnout among the eight states which went to polls on Sunday.
Private security guards of RJD leader Tej Pratap Yadav beat up a couple of photo journalists in a polling station in Patna after one of them allegedly smashed the windscreen of the former Bihar minister’s vehicle, enraged after the car crushed the toes of a fellow lensman.
Voting was temporarily hampered at few polling stations in Ara, Sasaram, Jehanabad, Pataliputr and Buxar, but officials redressed all grievances, a poll official said.
In neighbouring Jharkhand, over 70.54 per cent of the total 45,64,681 voters exercised their franchise in three Lok Sabha seats.
In the last phase of Lok Sabha polls, over 10.01 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise.
In Delhi, the EC said that participation of women and youth in the entire seven-phase election was higher than the previous years and a total of 7.27 crore voters took part in elections of which 3.47 crore were women and 3,377 were persons of third gender.
Besides, there was an increase in the voting numbers of persons with disability and senior citizens due to facilities provided by the EC.
Despite sporadic incidents of violence in West Bengal, the EC officials said that overall the elections in 2019 had fewer incidents of violence as compared to 2014. “The areas under Left wing extremism and Jammu Kashmir were largely peaceful,” deputy election commissioner Umesh Sinha told reporters.
Several cases of model code of conduct (MCC) violation, paid news, seizure of cash, liquor and drugs reported during the elections. The EC said that out of 703 notices issued, there were 647 confirmed cases of paid news during the entire election.
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