LS polls: 61% polling in last phase

Nearly 61 per cent voters turned out to cast their vote on Sunday in the seventh and the final phase of the LokSabha election held in 59 constituencies across eight states and Union Territories.

The turnout figure is tentative and the final figure is expected later, the Election Commission said.

The fate of 918 candidates, including Prime Minister NarendraModi, who is seeking to retain the Varanasi seat in Uttar Pradesh, will be decided in this phase.

Voting took place in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chandigarh.

Over 10.01 crore voters were eligible to exercise their franchise. The Election Commission had set up more than 1.12 lakh polling stations and deployed security personnel for smooth conduct of polls.

Incidents of violence in West Bengal and clashes in Punjab were reported during the seventh and last phase of LokSabha polls on Sunday.

Voting took place in 13 seats of Punjab and an equal number of seats in Uttar Pradesh, nine in West Bengal, eight seats each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, four in Himachal Pradesh, three in Jharkhand and the lone seat Chandigarh.

In Uttar Pradesh, 55.52 per cent voting was recorded in 13 LokSabha seats, officials said.

The turnout in Varanasi was 53.58 per cent, while in Gorakhpur, it was 56.47 per cent, the Election Commission said.

Violence erupted in ChandauliLokSabha constituency, where state BharatiyaJanata Party chief MahendraNath Pandey is seeking re-election, when supporters of the saffron party and the Samajwadi Party clashed. The situation was later brought under control.

A report from Chandauli said the fingers of Dalits had been inked before they could actually cast their vote in Tara Jivanpur village under Alinagar police station. Officials said an FIR was registered in the matter.

Incidents of violence were reported in West Bengal where 73.40 per cent of over 1.49 crore electorate exercised their franchise in nine LokSabha seats.

According to BJP’s North Kolkata candidate Rahul Sinha, a crude bomb was hurled near Girish Park in the constituency around noon. Police, however, said crackers were burst in the area, and polling was underway peacefully.

In Kolkata south, TMC candidate Mala Roy alleged that she was stopped from entering polling booths.

Sporadic clashes were reported in Kolkata and its surrounding areas, with TMC workers claiming that voters were being intimidated by central forces outside booths.

BJP candidate Nilanjan Roy in Diamond Harbour constituency alleged that his car was vandalized in Budge Budge area. Similar reports also came in from Jadavpur constituency, where BJP candidate AnupamHazra’s car came under the attack of unidentified men.

“Polling has by and large been peaceful in the nine seats. There have been no complaints of any violence from any of the polling booths,” an election official told PTI.

“There were also reports of EVM glitches in several polling stations. We have sent reserve EVMs to booths, where the voting process was temporarily hampered due to technical glitches,” he added.

Punjab saw a polling percentage of 59 per cent in 13 LokSabha seats. In lone Chandigarh LokSabha seat, 63.57 per cent turnout was registered. Maximum polling percentage was witnessed at 64.18 in Patiala and the lowest was in Amritsar at 52.47.

In the morning, there were some reports of technical glitches in EVMs at several places including Ludhiana, Samana and Moga. Punjab’s Chief Electoral Officer S KarunaRaju said eight ballot units, 13 control units, and eight voter-verified paper audit trail have been replaced.

There were also reports of clashes between Congress and Akali-BJP workers in Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda and Gurdaspur. At Talwandi Sabo, Akalis alleged that shots were also fired by ruling party workers.

In Himachal Pradesh, 66.70 per cent turnout was recorded till 5 pm in four LokSabha seats where five MLAs, including a state minister, are among the 45 candidates in the fray.

EVM snags delayed voting at nine polling stations. Voting restarted after the nine faulty EVMs were replaced, a state election officer said.

A turnout of 132 per cent has been recorded in the world’s highest polling station in Lahaul and Spiti district’s Tashigang village, a district official said.

In Madhya Pradesh, 69.36 per cent voter turnout was recorded in eight LokSabha seats.

However, voters listed at a booth in Agar Malwa district falling under the Dewas seat and five booths in Mandsaur seat boycotted the polling over their demands. Efforts were on to persuade voters to exercise their democratic right, an official said.

The official said around 12 people cast their votes at the polling booth in Dewas after being persuaded by election officials there.

Bihar witnessed 53.36 per cent voting in eight LokSabha seats.

An election official said, “Going by reports that reached us from district headquarters, we have found out that the voting process was temporarily hampered at few polling stations in Ara, Sasaram, Jehanabad, Pataliputr and Buxar. Officials have attended to the complaints and redressed all grievances,” he said.

In neighbouring Jharkhand, an estimated 70.97 per cent of the total 45,64,681 voters exercised their franchise in three LokSabha seats. In the last phase of LokSabha polls, over 10.01 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise. The Election Commission has set up more than 1.12 lakh polling stations and has deployed security personnel for smooth conduct of polls. An average of 66.88 per cent voters exercised their franchise in the last six phases and the whole elections were spread over 38 days. Counting of votes will be taken up on May 23.