India is all set for the second round of elections today as election authorities cracked down on ‘vote buying’ to deter unwanted influence in the ongoing polls .
The authorities have cancelled voting in a southern region of the country after seizing more than 110 million rupees ($1.5 million) they believe was meant to influence the outcome, officials said yesterday.
It is the first time a ballot has been cancelled in a national election over attempted vote-buying, they said.
Voters in the Vellore constituency in coastal Tamil Nadu state will not be going to the polls as scheduled after the Election Commission of India ruled there were fears of a “systematic design to influence voters”.
The commission said late Tuesday that the environment in Vellore was no longer conducive to “free and ethical” elections.
“Special measures are being taken by the election commission to check money power in the poll bound areas,” an election commission official said, adding that “we have divided areas and extra measures are being taken in the sensitive areas to ensure free and fair polling.”
A total of 96 constituencies in 13 states go to the polls today in the second round of the seven-phase election that began on April 11.
Attempts to secure votes in return for cash, liquor, electronic gadgets and even goats have been reported across Tamil Nadu in the run-up to voting, reported AFP.
More than 1.3 billion rupees ($18.7 million) and one ton of gold worth 3 billion rupees have been seized in the state since the poll dates were announced on March 10.
Elsewhere in the country, polls have been delayed by five days in parts of the northeastern state of Tripura over security fears.
On Monday, the election commission acted against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, President of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Mayawati, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Maneka Gandhi and Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan over inappropriate comments and barred them from campaigning for a certain period of time.
Indian politicians are often accused of using hate or intimidation to win support of the electorate, but soliciting votes on religious lines or threatening voters is prohibited.
Attacking the Congress president Rahul Gandhi for “abusing” him and the entire backward community, Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday said the Congress and its allies have a single point agenda of removing him from power.
“The opposition has no ideology. They are not telling what they did for 50-55 years. Neither are they revealing what they will do in the next five years. Whether in Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka or Maharashtra, the Opposition has only one agenda, ‘Modi hatao‘ (Remove Modi),” he said.
Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee yesterday came out in suppport of DMK leader Kanimozhi, whose residence was searched by central agencies, and said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to threaten parties opposed to him.
Kanimozhi is being harassed as DMK is opposed to BJP’s divisive politics in south India, she said.
Charging Modi with ruling India by the “decree of fear”, Mamata said that the country has never seen such a prime minister who is feared by everyone “instead of being loved and respected”.
At his first poll rally in Kerala’s Wayanad after choosing it as his second Lok Sabha seat, Rahul Gandhi yesterday said he wanted to send out a message by contesting from the south.
In a jibe at Modi, Gandhi said he was in Wayanad to understand what was inside the people’s hearts and not talk about his “Mann ki Baat”.
He praised Kerala for its diversity and accused the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of trying to impose a single agenda in the country, reported Hindustan Times.
In the ongoing elections, the ruling BJP is seeking to regain power under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi is facing tough competition from Rahul Gandhi, the fourth generation scion of India’s powerful Nehru-Gandhi family and regional parties that have forged coalition in several states.