Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among tens of millions of people who cast ballots in the third and largest phase of India’s general election yesterday amid reports of EVM glitches and clashes between TMC and Congress workers that left one voter dead.
In all, 188 million Indians were eligible to vote in 117 constituencies during the day, across 15 states and federally controlled territories. India’s parliament has 545 members.
At the end of the polling, an overall voter turnout was recorded at 63.24 percent.
In Gujarat, Modi first met his mother early in the morning and then rode in an open jeep, surrounded by hundreds of onlookers, to cast his vote shortly after 8:00 am.
“IED is a weapon of terrorism, and voter ID is a weapon of democracy,” he told reporters after voting, referring to improvised explosive devices and voter identification cards.
“I believe the voter ID is much more powerful than an IED.”
Modi voted in the constituency where his close associate Amit Shah, the BJP president and key powerbroker, is contesting his maiden election.
The general election, which has seven phases, began on April 11 and will end on May 19. Votes will be counted on May 23.
“This is, sort of, an inflection point,” said Rahul Verma, a fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank. More than half of India’s parliamentary constituencies will have voted by the end of the third phase.
So far, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has aggressively pushed Modi’s national security record as it seeks to offset the opposition’s charges of economic mishandling, inadequate jobs creation and widespread farm distress, reports Reuters.
“I think job creation, sustainable development, and communal harmony should be the top priorities for the upcoming government,” said Ubaidullah Mohyideen, 26, who voted in Kerala’s Wayanad, one of the two seats that opposition Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi is contesting.
Rahul Gandhi is standing in Wayanad in Kerala state, taking a risk as south India is considered a stronghold of regional parties.
The opposition party leader says contesting Wayanad is a sign of his commitment to southern India. His opponents say it shows he fears defeat in his traditional seat in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
Under Indian election law, candidates can contest two seats, though they can only keep one if they win both. Gandhi is also on the ballot for Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
Numerous complaints of malfunctioning of electronic voting machines (EVMs) were reported from across Kerala yesterday.
The malfunctioning was pointed out by none other than Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who said that election officials appear to have failed to ensure that the EVMs worked properly. “I myself had to wait for a while and I was told that the EVMs are not working. I am also told that this is the case in other places also,” Vijayan told the media in Kannur after he voted.
The leader of the opposition, who voted in Alappuzha, also complained about faulty EVMs. At a booth in Pathanamthitta Lok Sabha constituency, even two hours after the polling began officially, voting had not begun at one booth because the EVMs did not work.
Thiruvananthapuram District Collector K Vasuki rubbished reports that at a booth in Kovalam in the state capital, whenever the button for the Congress candidate was pressed, the light against the BJP symbol lit up. “This has been checked and this is not true,” said Vasuki.
A man, 52, who had queued up to vote was killed in a clash between party workers during third phase of polling in West Bengal’s Mushirabad district yesterday.
Initial reports identified the man as Tiyarul Kalam. His son told reporters that he and his father had queued up to vote at a polling station in Mushirabad district’s Bhagabangola area when Trinamool and Congress workers clashed, reportedly over allegations of proxy voting.
The sequence of events is still unclear. Kalam’s son said his father got caught up in the clash and was mercilessly thrashed with sticks before he was stabbed. He was taken to the hospital but it was too late.
There were multiple reports of violence in the state where five Lok Sabha constituencies are voting amid reports of hurling of crude bombs and intimidation. In one case in Murshidabad’s Domkal municipality, three TMC workers were injured by a crude bomb hurled at them.
With 350 companies of Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) posted in the state to oversee the election process, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee yesterday alleged that the central forces were asking voters to cast their franchise for the BJP.
Mamata said the Trinamool Congress (TMC) had apprised the Election Commission of the matter, which has been mainly reported from Malda Dakshin and Balurghat constituencies, reports The Indian Express.
Election results are set to be released on May 23 and analysts say Modi is not expected to see a repeat of the BJP’s 2014 performance, when they won 282 seats.