Lok Sabha polls: Over 58 percent voting till 5 pm in 57 constituencies; sporadic violence in West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali

Security measures have been intensified with 201 international border check posts and 906 inter-state border check posts in operation.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jun 01, 2024 | 10:00 AM Updated Jun 01, 2024 | 6:10 PM

Final phase of Lok Sabha polls 2024

A voter turnout of 58.34 percent was recorded till 5 pm on Saturday, 1 June in the seventh and final phase of the Lok Sabha polls with incidents of violence between TMC and BJP supporters reported in the Sandeshkhali region of West Bengal, and complaints of EVM glitches and rigging at some booths lodged.

Polling is underway in seven states and the Union Territory of Chandigarh for 57 constituencies, including Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a third consecutive term in the Lok Sabha.

Voting is being held amid a severe heatwave in all 13 seats of Punjab and four of Himachal Pradesh, 13 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, nine in West Bengal, eight in Bihar, six in Odisha and three in Jharkhand, besides Chandigarh. Polling for the remaining 42 assembly constituencies in Odisha and by-polls to six assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh are also taking place simultaneously.

Saturday’s voting will mark the end of the marathon polling process that began on 19 April. The assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim also went to polls. The BJP-led NDA is seeking a rare consecutive third term in office. The Opposition INDIA bloc is trying to upset the NDA applecart by putting up a joint fight in some states.

The counting of votes will be taken up on 4 June. Till 5 pm, the estimated polling percentage was 58.34, according to the EC’s voter-turnout app.

A voter turnout of nearly 67.95 percent was recorded in Jharkhand. Uttar Pradesh logged a polling percentage of 54, West Bengal 69.89, Bihar 48.86 and Himachal Pradesh 66.56.

Punjab recorded a voter turnout of 55.20 percent till 5 pm while Chandigarh registered a voting percentage of 62.80. Odisha recorded around 62.46 per cent voting.

The turnout in the first six phases of the general election was 66.14 per cent, 66.71 per cent, 65.68 per cent, 69.16 per cent, 62.2 per cent and 63.36 per cent respectively. The poll panel had called upon voters to turn out in greater numbers and vote with responsibility and pride.

Also Read: Women voters and transfer of votes, the two decisive factors in Lok Sabha polls 2024

Widespread violence in West Bengal

In Bengal’s Sandeshkhali, clashes broke out between TMC and BJP supporters over allegations of electoral malpractices. BJP candidate Rekha Patra alleged that TMC goons stopped voters from casting their votes. The TMC made counter-allegations and accused Patra and BJP goons of trying to vitiate the poll atmosphere.

As both groups came to blows on the Basanti Express highway, police resorted to baton charge and tear gas shelling to disperse the mob. Basirhat SP Hossain Mehedi Rahaman said three persons were injured during the clash between TMC and BJP supporters at Bayramari in Sandeshkhali, adding that one person was arrested in this connection.

TMC and BJP workers also clashed in some parts of Jadavpur and Diamond Harbour constituencies.

Clashes broke out between supporters of the TMC, Indian Secular Front (ISF) and BJP in Jadavpur as the parties alleged that their polling agents were stopped from entering booths.

A confrontation erupted in Bhangar within the Jadavpur constituency between TMC and ISF supporters, with allegations of crude bombs being hurled from both sides.

Police intervention ensued, triggering protests as both factions accused each other. To quell the situation, security personnel resorted to a lathi-charge and seized several crude bombs.

Also Read: Sitaram Yechury asks PM Modi: Is he aware of concluding words of Vivekananda’s Chicago speech?

Enhanced security, voter facilities

Over 10.06 crore citizens are eligible to vote in this phase, including 5.24 crore men, 4.82 crore women, and 3,574 third-gender electors. Voters have braved scorching temperatures to cast their ballots.

The first six phases witnessed turnout rates of 66.1 percent, 66.7 percent, 61.0 percent, 67.3 percent, 60.5 percent, and 63.4 percent, respectively.

To ensure a smooth voting process, 1.09 lakh polling stations have been equipped with essential facilities such as shade, drinking water, ramps, and toilets. Special provisions are also in place to accommodate elderly voters and persons with disabilities, including wheelchairs and volunteers.

Security measures have been intensified with 201 international border check posts and 906 inter-state border check posts in operation to prevent the illegal flow of liquor, drugs, cash, and freebies.

Additionally, 2,707 flying squads, 2,799 static surveillance teams, 1,080 surveillance teams, and 560 video viewing teams are on constant alert to curb any form of voter inducement.

During election rallies, Prime Minister Modi has been accusing the Congress and the INDIA bloc of corruption, promoting anti-Hindu sentiments, and dynastic politics. The Opposition, in turn, has been criticising the BJP for being anti-farmer and anti-youth, warning of potential constitutional changes if the BJP secures another term.

The vote counting for the Lok Sabha polls is scheduled for 4 June.

Also Read: INDIA bloc to get decisive mandate due to Congress’s campaign: Jairam Ramesh

Exit polls

According to Election Commission guidelines, television channels and news outlets will be able to run exit poll data and its results on 1 June after 6.30 pm. The EC said polling parties have been dispatched along with machines and poll materials to their respective polling stations.

The poll panel has also directed CEOs and state machinery to take adequate measures to manage the adverse impact of hot weather or rainfall wherever predicted. The commission called upon voters to turn out in greater numbers and vote with responsibility and pride.

On Thursday evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi headed to Kanyakumari where he is meditating till 1 June at the site associated with Swami Vivekananda.

Modi had 206 public outreach programmes, including rallies and roadshows, since the Election Commission announced the Lok Sabha election schedule on 16 March.

(Edited by Neena)