A Union Minister stopped from jumping the queue by a young N.R.I professional and people spontaneously applauding him for this act of courage became the dominant image of the 7th phase of voting in General Elections 2014. The day also had its fair share of controversy surrounding Narendra Modi with Prime Ministerial candidate being accused of breaking the model code of conduct.
The 7th phase of polling took place in 89 constituencies spanning across 7 states and 2 Union Territories. According to information received from Election Commission, huge number of people came out to exercise their democratic rights braving heat and other impediments. In virtually every state, percentage of votes polled was more than the last General Election. Many experts believe that this spike in vote is an assertion of average voters’ demand for a stable government and is likely to help BJP led by Narenrdra Modi.
In Modi’s home state of Gujarat, polling was up from 47.92% in 2009 to an impressive 62%. Like the last two phases, this time also highest voting percentage was recorded in the 9 seats which went to polls in West Bengal. Bengal recorded an impressive figure of 81.35% turnout. The opposition parties in Bengal however alleged that massive rigging was done by ruling TMC. State Election Commission though has more or less rejected their claims deeming the polls peaceful.
In terms of voting, Bengal was followed in second place by Punjab (73%). Punjab is witnessing a tense battle with SAD-BJP alliance in the back foot, a resurgent Congress (rare exception) and AAP as the novelty factor. Today, clashes erupted between Akali Dal and Congress workers in Moga, Khadoor Sahib and Amritsar, leaving 15 people injured.
An estimated 70% of the voters exercised their franchise in Telangana to elect representatives to the state’s first assembly and also to the Lok Sabha.
Both the two major states of Hindi heartland recorded impressive voter turnout today. In Uttar Pradesh, nearly 58% votes were polled in the 14 constituencies. In Bihar, polling in 7 constituencies saw nearly 60% of the electorate casting their vote.
The lowest polling of the day was expectedly recorded in Srinagar, Kashmir where meagre 25.62% people voted. Separatists had given a call for vote boycott and seems like it was successful to an extent. One person was killed in Srinagar when security personnel opened fire to chase away stone-pelting protesters.
In total, after Wednesday 438 out of 543 constituencies have given their verdict which is sealed in the EVM’s. The last two phase of polling for the remaining seats will be held on 7th and 12th May. Already nearly 36 crores Indians have voted in this General Election.
But one individual today stood out among this sea of humanity. Raja Kartik, a young techie from U.K protested against Union Minister Chiranjeevi when he and his family were allegedly jumping the long line in the polling booth. Kartik protested against this V.I.P treatment and confronted the actor turned politician. He asked Chiranjeevi to stand in the queue as he is neither a disabled nor a senior citizen.
Chiranjeevi was further embarrassed when the voters standing in sweltering heat for nearly an hour started clapping spontaneously. The actor was seen trying to pacify the young techie. Chiranjeevi later mumbled a feeble defence that he was merely trying to check whether his name was in the electoral list or not!! Finally the famous actor and his family had to vote after standing in the line for an hour. It was a symbolic event, but a message was conveyed to the politicians that Indian voters are alert and awake and shouldn’t be taken for granted.
The previous phase of polling showed Narendra Modi hogging the limelight as he went to file his nomination from Varanasi. This phase was no different but for a very different reason. Two FIRs have been slapped against the Gujarat CM by his own state authorities under orders from E.C for violating the Model Code of Conduct.
Today, after casting his vote in Ranip polling station, Modi addressed the press and repeatedly showed a replica of lotus which he was holding in his hand to all the TV cameras.
Congress reacted promptly by lodging a complaint alleging violation of Representation of the People (RP) Act. EC after seeing the footage decided to crack the whip. It came to the conclusion that Narendra Modi has violated the provisions of sections 126 (1)(a) and 126 (l)(b) of RP Act. EC was extremely blunt in their observation when it said that “It is evident….he (Narendra Modi) intended, calculated to influence voting today”.
According to these sections of the act, no campaigning can be done during the period of 48 hours till the voting is concluded. It also prohibits public display of campaign material through means like TV etc.
The Crime Branch of the Ahmedabad Police will conduct further enquiry into the matter. BJP tried to downplay the incident saying that it is merely a technical issue. Party spokesperson Balbir Punj said that when they are busy campaigning, Congress is only complaining. Meenakshi Lekhi said that they respect the EC, but Modi didn’t violate the code of conduct. Congress tried to earn some political brownie points by branding Modi as a “serial offender”. A case has also been registered against the TV channels for airing Modi’s press conference where he proclaimed “Ma-beta ki sarkar” is on its way out.
Modi just before this controversy had tweeted a “selfie” of his inked figure. It became a major talking point in the social media alongside Digvijay Singh’s confession that he is in a relationship with TV journalist Amrita Rai and plans to get married. After certain pictures and video of Digvijay and the lady got viral, the Congress General Secretary was forced to give this hurried explanation. Digvijay also condemned the encroachment in his private matters. Soon supporters of the Modi camp pounced into Digvijay questioning where was his sense of respecting privacy when he raked up Namo’s marriage issue. Meenakshi Lekhi of BJP said that it is an offence both in terms of morality and legality!! This incident just adds to the increasing degradation of the discourse voters have witnessed over this month long drawn campaign.
Just like BJP has Meenakshi Lekhi, Congress has Manish Tewari known for his rich vocabulary and with an “amazing” ability to outrage about virtually everything under the sun. But as they say sometimes too much talk can land someone in trouble. Manish Tewari had to seek a rather tepid unconditional apology from ex BJP President Nitin Gadkari, under a threat of lawsuit.
Manish had earlier alleged that Gadkari owns a “benami” flat in controversial Adarsh society. Mr Gadkari subsequently moved to the court against this allegation. Manish quoted a report of the judicial commission to acknowledge that Gadkari had no links with the scam and hence tendered an unconditional apology. BJP candidate from Nagpur, Gadkari has now decided to drop the case.
These were all the top news from the big polling day. We will be back with more campaign related news tomorrow.