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High turnout omen for change?

Friday, 18 April 2014 | PNS | New Delhi

Bengal registers record 78.89%, lowest polling in MP at 54%

A massive turnout in West Bengal and moderate to high voting in 11 other States for the 121 Lok Sabha seats that went to poll on Thursday marked the end of the crucial fifth phase that was often marred by acrimonious exchanges and personal attacks.

Both the BJP and the Congress have stakes in this round. Of the 121 seats that went to polls on Thursday, the BJP and its allies hold 46 and the Congress and its partners 43 seats. With opinion polls showing the BJP excelling in many of the States that went to elections on Thursday, the Congress has reasons to be on the back foot as the general election reached the halfway mark with the fifth phase.

Except few instances in which Maoists injured four CRPF jawans, blew up railway tracks and exploded bombs in Jharkhand, the polling was largely peaceful.

The highest turnout of 78.89 per cent was recorded in four constituencies in West Bengal, which has a total of 39 seats, while the lowest was recorded in Madhya Pradesh at 54 per cent. Uttar Pradesh registered 62.52 per cent polling in 11 seats, while around 65 per cent voter turnout was recorded in three Naxal-hit Lok Sabha constituencies of Chhattisgarh where Maoists targeted a polling team.

In the key battleground State of Karnataka, where polling was held in the all the 28 seats, the voting percentage was 66 per cent, but only 51 per cent voters turned up at polling booths in State capital Bangalore, seen as a hub of those active on social media.

A good show for the Congress in Karnataka could help it to check the BJP attempt to better its national score. In the previous Lok Sabha poll in the State, the BJP had won 18 seats. Karnataka is known to vote differently in the Assembly and Lok Sabah polls. The Congress had defeated the BJP in last year’s Assembly polls.

Maharashtra, which has a total of 48 seats, 19 constituencies saw a turnout of 61.7 per cent.

Over 54 per cent polling was registered in seven Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, while 62 per cent turnout was reported in six constituencies in adjacent Jharkhand, despite Maoists’ boycott call.

It was the biggest of the nine-phased polls involving 1,769 candidates, including high-profile candidates like Nandan Nilekani (Cong), Maneka Gandhi (BJP), former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda (JD-S), Union Minister Veerappa Moily (Cong) and Srikant Jena (Cong), Supriya Sule (NCP) and Lalu Prasad’s eldest daughter Misa Bharti (RJD), Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia (Cong), and actor-turned BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha from Patna Sahib, and Begum Noor Bano of the Congress in Moradabad.

Some of the high-profile candidates turned up early in the morning to cast their votes. Bharat Ratna recipient CNR Rao came for voting at Bangalore, while anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare used his power to vote at Ralegan-Siddhi in Maharashtra.

While Rajasthan, experienced low to average polling at over 58 per cent for 20 Lok Sabha seats, Madhya Pradesh registered a low of around 51 per cent for ten seats and Odisha over 58 per cent for 11 Lok Sabha and 77 Assembly constituencies.

The polling in the central Bihar could be a big test for Janta Dal leader Nitish Kumar as his party holds seats like Arrah, Nalanda and Munger and is facing threat from the RJD-Congress and the BJP-LJP alliance.

For 11 seats of west UP and Rohilkhand region, Muslim votes will be crucial to decide the outcome of the elections. Bareilly, Moradabad, Rampur and Pilibhit have in the past two years witnessed communal tension. The SP had won four of 11 of these seats in 2009. 

Though no untoward incident has been reported from Bihar, voting in four booths in Munger Lok Sabha seat have been adjourned due to suspicion about the presence of landmine, Election Commission sources said.

There have been reports of irregularities in EVM machines in Patna, Jehanabad, Munger and other places which were addressed and voting has resumed, the EC sources said.

The Election Commission has sought a report from the returning officer of Cooch Behar parliamentary seat, following complaints by Forward Bloc candidate Dipak Kumar Roy, who complained of booth capturing, intimidation of voters and polling agents, lack of security and lack of deployment of central paramilitary forces in the north Bengal constituency. 

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