62 percent turnout in last phase of Lok Sabha elections; violence in Bengal’s Sandeshkhali

57 constituencies, including Varanasi from where Modi is seeking a third consecutive term, spread across seven states and a UT went to polls.

ByPTI

Published Jun 02, 2024 | 12:13 PMUpdatedJun 02, 2024 | 12:13 PM

Voting for the fifth phase of Lok Sabha electons

The marathon polling process to elect the 18th Lok Sabha ended on Saturday, 1 June, with the seventh phase of elections witnessing an approximate voter turnout of 62.36 percent, amid clashes between TMC and BJP supporters in Sandeshkhali and some other parts of West Bengal.

57 constituencies, including Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a third consecutive term, spread across seven states and the Union Territory of Chandigarh went to polls.

According to the EC’s voter-turnout app at 12.30 am on Sunday, the estimated polling percentage in the last phase was 62.36. The turnout was higher than the 61 percent recorded in the corresponding phase of the 2019 parliamentary polls.

All eyes are now on 4 June, when the counting of votes will be held. In Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, the counting for the Assembly polls is on 2 June.

Also Read: Civil society vigilance intensifies amidst concerns of electoral manipulation

‘Held amid severe heatwave’

Voting for the last phase was 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 also took place simultaneously.

Saturday’s voting marked the end of the seven-phase polling 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.

Several exit polls, which were aired after the 6.30 pm deadline set by the Election Commission, predicated a comfortable majority for the BJP-led NDA.

Leaders of several INDIA bloc parties met in the evening to take stock of the Opposition’s preparations leading up to the 4 June counting of votes and claimed they would get more than 295 seats, enough for them to form the next government.

Modi exuded confidence that people have voted in record numbers to re-elect the NDA government and said the “opportunistic INDI Alliance” failed to strike a chord with the voters who rejected their “regressive politics”.

State-wise turnout

A voter turnout of 70.66 percent was recorded in Jharkhand. Uttar Pradesh logged a polling percentage of 55.59, West Bengal 73.47, Bihar 51.92 and Himachal Pradesh 69.87.

Punjab recorded a voter turnout of 59.92 percent while Chandigarh registered a voting percentage of 67.90. Odisha recorded around 70.67 per cent voting.

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

After polling ended on Saturday, the EC thanked the Indian voters, saying it was “deeply humbled” by them making it to polling stations overcoming many challenges and dilemmas.

“Indian voters have given their most cherished right to vote for the constitution of the 18th Lok Sabha. Indian democracy and Indian elections have again done the magic. The great Indian voters, irrespective of their caste, creed, religion, socio-economic and educational background have done it once again,” the poll watchdog said in a statement.

Also Read: TDP-led Jana Sena, BJP alliance set to sweep Andhra: exit poll

Clashes in Sandeshkhali

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 charges 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 control the situation, security personnel resorted to baton charge and seized several crude bombs.

Prime Minister Modi appealed to people to exercise their franchise. “Together, let’s make our democracy more vibrant and participative,” the prime minister said on X.

“Today is the final phase of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. As 57 seats across 8 states and UTs go to the polls, calling upon the voters to turn out in large numbers and vote. I hope young and women voters exercise their franchise in record numbers,” he added.

Prominent candidates

Other prominent candidates among the 904 in the fray are Union minister Anurag Thakur, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad’s daughter Misa Bharti and actor Kangana Ranaut.

More than 10.06 crore citizens, including nearly 5.24 crore men, 4.82 crore women and 3,574 third-gender electors, were eligible to vote in this phase.

The campaigning for the last phase, which ended on Thursday evening, saw ruling BJP leaders, led by Modi, accusing the Congress and the INDIA Opposition bloc of being corrupt, anti-Hindu and engaging in loot, appeasement and dynastic politics.

The Opposition parties have been claiming that the BJP is anti-farmer, anti-youth and will change and scrap the Constitution if it wins the election.

Polling was held in eight Lok Sabha constituencies of Bihar, along with the by-poll to the Agiaon Assembly seat. Union minister RK Singh and former Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad are among the contestants in the fray.

The Dumka, Rajmahal and Godda seats in Jharkhand went to polls in this phase. All eyes are on Dumka, where the BJP’s Sita Soren, the sister-in-law of jailed former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, is contesting against the INDIA bloc’s Nalin Soren. Sita Soren, a three-term former Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) legislator, joined the BJP just ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

Also Read: Lok Sabha elections: Several exit polls predict big win for BJP-led NDA

Polling in Odisha

Polling was also held for six Lok Sabha and 42 Assembly seats in Odisha.

Assembly Speaker Pramila Mallik, the government’s chief whip Prashant Muduli, Odisha BJP chief Manmohan Samal and BJP national vice-president Baijayant Panda are among the candidates in the fray.

Voting was also held for the Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin and Kolkata Uttar seats in West Bengal.

Several heavyweight candidates, including incumbent Trinamool Congress (TMC) MPs Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Sougata Roy and Mala Roy, former Union minister Debasree Chaudhuri of the BJP and senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty, are in the fray.

In Uttar Pradesh, which sends the highest number of 80 members to the Lok Sabha among all the states, voting was held in 13 constituencies.

In Punjab, INDIA bloc allies — the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) —contested the election separately, while the BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) fought the polls on their own for the first time since 1996.

Polling was held for four Lok Sabha seats — Hamirpur, Mandi, Kangra and Shimla — and six Assembly constituencies of Sujanpur, Dharamshala, Lahaul and Spiti, Barsar, Gagret and Kutlehar in Himachal Pradesh. All eyes are on Mandi, where Ranaut of the BJP has locked horns with the Congress’ Vikramaditya Singh.

(Disclaimer: The headline, subheads, and intro of this report along with the photos may have been reworked by South First. The rest of the content is from a syndicated feed, and has been edited for style.)