Lok Sabha Election Phase 4: West Bengal sees highest turnout again, boycott calls reported from many places

Kubra Fatima | Apr 28, 2019 | 6 min read


Maximum City, minimum turnout; Maharashtra disappoints, West Bengal shines with 76% polling percentage

Kubra Fatima

The fourth phase of the 17th Lok Sabha elections was held today, on April 29, across 71 parliament seats from the states of Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.

Just like the third phase, West Bengal recorded maximum voter’s turnout among all the states that went to polls in the fourth phase. The eight seats in West Bengal saw over 76% of voter turnout till 6 pm. Madhya Pradesh recorded the second highest voting percentage of the fourth phase at close to 66%. Maharashtra once again saw a poor voter turnout despite the 10 constituencies of Maximum City Mumbai going to polls in this phase. The 17 seats in the state witnessed just a little above 50% voter turnout as of 6 pm.

Voting concluded in Maharashtra in this fourth phase, with its final 17 seats going for election. This included high profile constituencies like Mumbai South, from where Congress leader and former MP Milind Deora--backed recently by the business tycoons, the Ambanis--is contesting, and Mumbai North Central that is witnessing a clash between incumbent BJP MP Poonam Mahajan and Congress’ Priya Dutt--both daughters of prominent figures, Pramod Mahajan a former BJP minister and late Bollywood actor Sunil Dull. Popular Bollywood celebrities like Kareena Kapoor-Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan showed up with their families to vote. While voting was carried out peacefully across the state, the Election Commission received at least 30 complaints of EVM malfunctioning, primarily from Dhule and Nandurbar constituencies.

The states of Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh voted in the first phase of their general elections, with three, 12 and six seats going to vote, respectively. The remaining seats in these states have been spread across the final three phases. Rajasthan recorded a voting percentage of 62.82% while Jharkhand witnessed 63.42% of its voters exercising their franchise.

Increasing number of boycotts

Reminiscent of the 2018 state assembly elections, several villages across Rajasthan called for a boycott of the general elections, citing lack of infrastructural development. Some of them included Sodawas, Khanpur under Jhalawar Lok Sabha seat and Mahamandir in Jodhpur amongst others.

Moreover, by 9 am, the Election Commission had already received 88 complaints of EVM malfunctioning in Rajasthan. Authorities reached the locations to replace the machines and resumed voting.

Clashes between rival parties regarding voter intimidation and complaints of fake voting also took place in Barmer, Raniwad and Sirohi (voter intimidation). In Barmer, three people were injured in such clashes and were rushed to the hospital.

In Jharkhand’s first phase, voting was carried out “peacefully”, according to L Khyangte, chief election officer.

However, allegations of missing voters cropped up at a polling booth in Sisai, under Lohardaga constituency. Based on inputs, about 50 names were left off the voting list. These included several individuals who had voted in the previous state and general elections held in 2014.

Madhya Pradesh, like Rajasthan, saw several villages boycotting the elections. Across Lok Sabha constituencies Dindori and Shahdol, a looming water crisis and lack of canals were put forward as reasons for boycott. In Sidhi, lack of infrastructural development pushed residents to boycott voting this election cycle. Across these regions, villagers refused to step out and exercise their franchise until their demands are fulfilled. In villages where a call for boycott was put forward, polling officers were sent to the spot in an attempt to persuade voters.

Jammu and Kashmir witnessed low voter turnout at its only seat, Kulgam, in Anantnag. At a polling booth in Yaripora, only 13 out of 2,300 turned up. Similarly, several pollings booths recorded zero voting even till afternoon. A stray incident of stone-pelting took place as well, however, no injuries were reported. 9.79% polling percentage was recorded in Kulgam by 6 pm.

West Bengal, keeping up its trend from the last three phases, saw sporadic incidents of violence taking place across its seven seats that went to vote today--primarily in Asansol and Birbhum Lok Sabha constituencies. Clashes between Congress, BJP and TMC workers for alleged booth capturing, rigging, and using intimidation and physical violence against voters led to several injuries which required immediate intervention by the CRPF deployed on the ground. BJP’s Babul Supriyo, incumbent MP from Asansol, alleged mass rigging across voting booths in Jamuria and Raniganj. The EC also received several notices from TMC and BJP, each accusing the other of violating the model code of conduct.

Odisha, which sent six seats for election today, witnessed minor bursts of violence in Kendrapara, between BJD and BJP supporters; due to the clash, two BJP workers suffered injuries. In another incident, a Congress worker, Lachman Behera, was allegedly stabbed to death in Noliasahi, in Balikuda-Erasama, after voting. EVM malfunctioning was also reported from Bhadrak, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Mayurbhanj constituencies where voting was delayed by more than an hour. Jajpur, Mayurbhanj and Kendrapara also saw a call for election boycott by voters. In Sukinda Assembly seat, under Jajpur Lok Sabha constituency, polls were boycotted by voters as they complained of the district administration’s inefficiency and inaction in shifting from them Kalinganagar industrial area. Three polling officials were also suspended after being caught influencing voters on CCTV camera in Jajpur. Odisha recorded 64% polling percentage by 6 pm.

Uttar Pradesh and Bihar witnessed EVM malfunctioning, scattered incidents of clashes and calls for election boycott.

EVM malfunctioning was reported in UP’s Kannauj, Hamirpur, Kanpur and Shahjahanpur among others; Bihar reported technical glitches in Lakhimpur Dariyapur, under Ujiarpur Lok Sabha seat. Clashes were reported between opposing party supporters in Shahjahanpur, Kannauj, Lakhisarai and Munger in UP; no major injuries were reported in these regions. Election boycott due to disappointment over poor infrastructural took place in Bihar’s Samastipur and UP’s Hardoi and Farrukhabad.

Bihar recorded 57.71% polling, while UP was at 54.16% till 6 pm.

Death by democracy

Several individuals, including election officers, lost their lives while at their respective polling booths today.

In Jodhpur, Shaitan Singh, a booth-level officer in Setrawa village, died after slipping down a staircase while on duty. Suresh Chand Paliwal, another polling official deployed at Vallabh Nagar polling station in Udaipur died while on duty. He fainted at the polling station and after being rushed to MB hospital in the city Udaipur, was declared dead by doctors. A woman passed away right after casting her vote in Rajasthan's Rajsamand constituency. Bheem Sub-Division's SDM Suman Sonal said that Badnam Bai, resident of Bahar village, visited the polling booth at 9:30 am. She reportedly started feeling uneasy right after voting and was declared dead after being rushed to the hospital.

One Ompal Singh, a resident of Baghauli village in Hardoi, UP, died while waiting in line to vote. He was rushed to the hospital and declared dead. Similarly, at booth 61 in Darbhanga Lok Sabha seat, Bihar, 70-year-old Reetlal Ray suffered a heart attack while on his way to vote. A polling official, Sagarika Nayak, was hospitalised after she fell sick, reportedly due to heat exhaustion in Soro, under Balasore LS constituency. She has been admitted to the Community Health Centre in Soro.

With inputs from Bibhuti Mohapatra, Ashwin Aghor and A Ghose

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