2019 general elections: Polling smooth but moderate in phase-3

New Delhi: Amid complaints of EVM glitches, moderate polling was recorded today in the first few hours of voting in 117 Lok Sabha seats, including all constituencies of Gujarat and Kerala, in which BJP president Amit Shah, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and several Union ministers are in the fray.

As polling began, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cast his vote at a booth in Ahmedabad. Amit Shah, who is contesting the Lok Sabha election from Gandhinagar seat in Gujarat, also cast his vote at a polling booth in Ahmedabad.

Besides all seats in Gujarat (26) and Kerala (20), voting was under way in four seats in Assam, five in Bihar, seven in Chhattisgarh, 14 each in Karnataka and Maharashtra, six in Odisha, 10 in Uttar Pradesh, five in West Bengal, two in Goa, and one each in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu and Tripura.

Voting in Tripura East constituency, which was earlier scheduled for 18 April, was also held, as also in a part of the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat in Jammu and Kashmir, where election is being held in three phases.

Voting was also held in some Assembly constituencies in Odisha, Gujarat and Goa.

In Jammu and Kashmir, voting began on a dull note in Anantnag district of Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency, where polling will be held in three phases. Residents in most parts of the district in restive south Kashmir are yet to venture out, officials said.

The Election Commission has curtailed the polling duration for Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency by two hours following a request from the State police. The voting was held in south Kashmir areas from 7 am to 4 pm.

There are 18 candidates in the fray for Anantnag constituency, including PDP president and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti. The Congress has fielded State president Ghulam Ahmad Mir while former High Court judge Hasnain Masoodi is contesting on the National Conference ticket. The other prominent candidate in the fray is former MLC Sofi Yousuf of the BJP.

KERALA

Kerala witnessed enthusiastic voters queuing up at several booths even before 7 am in all 20 Lok Sabha constituencies.

However, there were complaints of technical glitches in electronic voting machines in some polling booths. Many polling stations witnessed heavy rush and long queues in the initial hours.

Rahul Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor and Union Minister, Alphons Kannamthanam, are key contenders in Kerala.

Women, senior citizens and first-time electors turned up in large numbers to exercise their franchise.

The three major fronts — ruling CPI(M)-led LDF, Opposition Congress headed UDF and the BJP-NDA have nominated 6 women candidates.

Wayanad constituency from where Rahul Gandhi is contesting, besides his pocket borough Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, has the maximum number of candidates — 20 and the lowest are in Alathur in Palakkad district (6).

KARNATAKA

In Karnataka, polling began 7 am in 28,022 polling stations that are mostly in the northern belt of the State, covering the entire Hyderabad-Karnataka and Mumbai-Karnataka regions, a couple of central districts and coastal Uttara Kannada.

Queues were seen at polling booths as the voting began, with many arriving to vote early in the day to avoid the summer heat.

The contest is between the ruling Congress-JD(S) combine and the BJP in 14 of the 28 LS seats in Karnataka.

CHHATTISGARH

In Chhattisgarh, over 12 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the initial two-and-a-half hours of polling in seven Lok Sabha constituencies.

Voting for the third phase of Lok Sabha polls in the State began in Raipur, Durg, Bilaspur, Korba, Janjgir-Champa (SC), Surguja (ST) and Raigarh (ST) amid tight security 7 am, an election official said.

BIHAR

In Bihar, an estimated 9.35 per cent of over 89 lakh electorate exercised their franchise in the first two hours of polling in five LS seats.

Voting was hampered at two polling stations in Khagaria and three booths in Jhanjharpur due to EVM malfunctioning, official sources said.

UTTAR PRADESH

Bracing a sudden rise in mercury, an estimated 12 per cent of the electorate exercised their franchise during the first two hours of voting in Uttar Pradesh.

Polling was under way in 10 Lok Sabha seats in the state to decide the electoral fate of four members of SP patron Mulayam Singh Yadav’s clan, besides that of senior party leader Azam Khan and film actor and BJP candidate Jaya Prada.

The seats are spread over Rohilkhand region of the State where the BJP had won seven out of 10 seats in 2014.

CRUCIAL PHASE

The third phase is crucial as it will decide the fate of the heads of the BJP and Congress — Shah, who replaced L K Advani as party nominee from Gandhinagar in Gujarat, and Rahul Gandhi, contesting from Wayanad in Kerala besides his traditional Amethi seat in Uttar Pradesh.

About 18.56 crore voters were eligible for voting in the third phase of the elections, for which 2.10 lakh polling booths were set up.

The stakes are high for the ruling BJP and its allies as they bagged 66 seats out of these 117 spread across 15 states and Union territories in the 2014 general elections, while the Congress and its alliance partners won 27, and the rest went to other Opposition parties and Independents.

NT Bureau