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Tuesday, 14 May 2024 | TN RAGHUNATHA | Mumbai


Amid a complaint by the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) about the alleged use of money to “purchase” votes in three constituencies, an average 52.75 per cent of 2.28 crore voters exercised their franchise till 5 pm in eleven Lok Sabha constituencies in the fourth phase of polls held on Monday.

Except that the tribal-dominated constituency of Nandurbar constituencies in north Maharashtra witnessed 60.60 per cent voting till 5 pm, the polling in other ten constituencies ranged from 43.80 per cent to 58.65 per cent, a percentage that was in line with similar pattern of voting witnessed in the first three phases of Lok Sabha polls in the State.

Apart from Nandurbar where high polling percentage was expected considering that the constituency had witnessed 66.77 per cent 68.65 per cent polling respectively in 2014 and 2019 polls, the other ten constituencies recorded the following polling percentages till 5 pm: Ahmednagar (52.27), Aurangabad (55.38), Beed (58.37), Jalgaon (51.98), Jalna (59.44), Maval (46.03), Pune (44.90), Raver (56.16), Shirdi(55.27) and Shirur ( 43.89).

The low polling percentages in constituencies like Pune, Shirur and Maval were a cause for worry for all the political parties.

In a related development, the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi leaders made a sensational allegation that large amount of cash were reportedly being transferred to and fro, ostensibly to buy votes in the Lok Sabha elections

Shiv Sena (UBT) spokesperson Sanjay Raut, NCP (Sharad Pawar)  MLA Rohit R Pawar and Congress MLA Ravindra Dhangekar who is contesting from Pune, targeted the ruling BJP-led MahaYuti and alleged that the money might be used to “purchase” votes in Pune, Ahmednagar and Nashik LS constituencies.

Putting out a purported video of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde alighting from a helicopter in Nashik with two security personnel lugging at least two heavy bags, Raut demanded to know why the CM travelled with such bulky luggage for just a two-hour long poll campaign trip.

Rohit Pawar posted another video showing bundles of cash lying on a road in the Ahmednagar LS constituency and claimed that it contained ‘prasad’ for disbursing among the voters.

“Today, a packet arrived here in the name of everyone called ‘Raja’ with the ‘prasad’ and a plea by the guardian minister to vote for his party. The irony is that in many villages, the local refused to accept the ‘prasad’ and in others, the village elders siphoned off half the ‘prasad’,” Rohit Pawar said, while taking a dig at the BJP’s LS candidate from Ahmednagar Dr. Sujay R. Vikhe-Patil Dr Sujay is taking on  Nilesh D. Lanke of the NCP (Sharad Pawar)

Dhangekar alleged that last night in Pune, a large amount of cash was distributed during the weekend to lure the voters in the Sahakar Nagar slums in his constituency reportedly supporters of the ruling MahaYuti.

The ruling BJP is battling hard to retain seven seats that it had won in the 2019 polls, while the feuding factions of the  Shiv Sena  are slugging it out in three constituencies - Aurangabad, Maval and Shirdi (SC).

The two factions of the NCP - led by Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar - are locked in a keen contest at Shirur, where sitting NCP (SP) Dr Amol Kolhe is taking Shivajirao Adalrao Patil. Shivajirao Patil -- who was earlier with Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena - switched over to the Ajit Pawar-led NCP a few weeks ago, just to contest the polls on NCP (Ajit Pawar) ticket.

Unlike in the earlier three phases, there are not many known faces. The only relatively familiar face is Pankaja Munde, who is the eldest daughter of late BJP leader Gopinath Munde and niece of BJP national leader Pramod Mahajan.

Pankaja is locked in a direct contest against Bhajrang Sonawane of the NCP  (Sharad Pawar). Mundes hail from the Vanjari community and has an excellent following among the OBC community members, while Sonawane is a Maratha.

The contest in the neighbouring Aurangabad seat which is currently held by Imtiyaz Jaleel of the Asaduddiun Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has evoked considerable interest. Jaleel had surprised many in the State political circles by winning the Aurangabad seat for the first time. He had earlier in 2014 been elected to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly from Aurangabad Central constituency.

This time around, Jaleel is involved in a three-cornered contest against Sandeeprao Bhumare of the Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde) and former MP Chandrakant Khaire of Shiv Sena (UBT). It remains to be seen if the AIMIM  candidate will be able to retain Aurangabad seat in this election.

In Nandurbar where both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi addressed election rallies, the BJP sitting MP Dr Haseena Haseena Gavit is taking on Gowal Padvi of the Congress.    

In Jalgaon where the saffron party has replaced its sitting MP Unmesh Patil, the replaced BJP candidate Smita Wagh is taking on Karan Pawar from the Shiv Sena (UBT).

In Raver, Raksha Nikhil Khadase of the BJP is fighting Shriram Patil from the NCP (Sharad Pawar).  Maval is witnessing a direct fight between Shrirang Barne of the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and Sanjog Waghere Patil from the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena.

Given that both Modi and Rahul campaigned in Pune, the contest here between  Murlidhar Mohol of BJP and Ravindra Dhangekar of the Congress has evoked interest.  In the neighbouring Ahmednagar, Dr Sujay Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil of the BJP is taking on Nilesh Dnyandev Lanke of the NCP (Sharad Pawar).

In Shirdi constituency where the famous Shirdi temple is located, Sadashiv Lokhande of the Shiv Sena (Ekanth Shinde) is fighting Bhausaheb Rajaram Wakchaure  of the rival Shiv Sena (UBT).

In Jalna, sitting BJP MP Raosaheb Danve, who won the 2019 Lok Sabha polls with a massive margin of 3.32 lakh votes, is taking on Dr Kalayan Kale of the Congress.

Meanwhile, the Opposition NCP (Sharad Pawar) lodged a complaint with the Election Commission of India expressing serious concerns over the security of EVMs of Baramati Lok Sabha constituencies in Pune district, where the CCTVs went blank for close to 45 minutes.

It may be recalled that the polling to Baramati Lok Sabha constituency was held in the third phase of the polls on May 7. After the polling, the EVMs had been shifted to a strong room at Baramati ahead of the counting of votes on June 4.     

Taking to micro-blogging site X, three-time sitting NCP MP Supriya Sule wrote, “After the polling of Baramati, the CCTV in a godown where the EVMs are kept was switched off for 45 minutes this morning. It is suspicious that the CCTV is switched off where a very important thing like an EVM is kept. Also, this is a big lapse. When the election representatives contacted the concerned authorities and administration, no satisfactory answers were received. Apart from this, the technician is also not available at the said place”.

“The Election Commission should immediately take notice of this and announce the reasons why the CCTV was closed. Apart from this, appropriate action should be taken against those responsible for the incident,” Supriya wrote.

On her part, Baramati Lok Sabha  poll Returning Officer Kavita Dwivedi said the matter is being probed. “While the electrician was working, a cable was cut briefly…all data of the said period is intact…all CCTVs are working,” she said.

Baramati is witnessing a battle royale between Sharad Pawar’s daughter and three-time MP Supriya Sule and his estranged nephew and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra Pawar.

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