Highest-ever turnout of 66.38 pc in Lok Sabha polls

Highest-ever turnout of 66.38 pc in Lok Sabha polls

Marathon polling to elect the 16th Lok Sabha came to an end on Monday, with over 66.38 per cent of the nation’s 81.45 crore electors casting their votes in nine rounds of polling, thus registering a turnout that surpassed the 1984 record of 64.01 per cent.

The climax of the five-week balloting on Monday saw Varanasi at the centre, as the constituency in eastern Uttar Pradesh is one of the two from where BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is contesting. His Congress rival from Varanasi, Ajai Rai, drew the Election Commission’s ire for flouting the Representation of the People Act while casting his vote at a polling station.

Altogether, 41 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal went to polls in the ninth phase.

Though no major untoward incident was reported from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, at least 24 people were injured in a clash between activists of the ruling Trinamool Congress and the opposition CPM in West Bengal.

The CPM submitted a memorandum to the EC, accusing the TMC of orchestrating large-scale violence and booth-capturing. The party even accused the poll panel of being a mute spectator to the “mockery and rape of democracy in West Bengal”.

Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi said that although the poll panel had received reports of clashes between political parties in West Bengal and security forces had arrested the troublemakers, it had also been informed that the scuffles had no impact on polling in the state’s 17 Lok Sabha constituencies. The local poll officials, however, will take the appropriate decision after scrutinising reports on Tuesday, added Zutshi.

Election Commission director general Akshay Rout said that the 16th Lok Sabha elections had already set a record with a turnout of 66.38 per cent, which would go further up when updated reports from all constituencies that had gone to polls in the final phase reach the commission.

The eighth Lok Sabha elections, which took place soon after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, witnessed a 64.01 per cent turnout — the highest in the history of independent India. The turnout in the 15th Lok Sabha polls in 2009 was 58.19 per cent.

The country’s focus continued to be on Varanasi as Rai walked into a polling station with a replica of his party symbol—“hand”—pinned to his ‘kurta’. The Congress candidate also spoke to journalists after casting his vote.

The poll panel, which the BJP had earlier accused of being biased in Varanasi, was quick to ask the Returning Officer of the constituency to lodge an FIR and complaints against Rai under Section 126 and 130 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

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