Over 64.14% vote in 7th phase, CEC claims fair polling

 A security personnel stands guard outside a polling station during the seventh and last phase of Lok Sabha elections in Varanasi on Sunday. PTI photo

The almost six-week-long polling process for Lok Sabha elections came to its end on Sunday, when at least 64.14% voters cast votes in the last of the seven phases of voting with sporadic incidents of violence being reported – mostly from West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Sunday claimed that the polling for the Lok Sabha elections, the assembly elections four states as well well as some bye-elections “passed peacefully” and were conducted “in a free, fair, robust and ethical manner”. His comment came amid allegations by the Congress, Trinamool Congress and the other opposition parties that the EC had been biased towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

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The EC also faced protest from within, with Ashok Lavasa, one of the three members of the commission, writing to the CEC, raising objection over his dissenting views going unrecorded in the decisions and orders of the commission, particularly in the cases of alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by politicians during electioneering. Lavasa disagreed with Arora and the other Election Commissioner, Sushil Chandra, on the clean chits the EC gave to Prime Minister and the BJP president Amit Shah on alleged cases of MCC violation by them.

The 483 Lok Sabha constituencies, which went to the polls in the previous six phases of polling, registered an average turnout of 67.37%. Umesh Sinha, the Senior Deputy Election Commissioner, said that the polling percentage this year had already crossed the 2014 mark – 66.44% – at the end of the sixth phase and would go up further when the turnout for the seventh phase would be reworked after receipt of updated reports from all polling stations.

With altogether 59 constituencies in Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and the Union Territory of Chandigarh going to the polls in the final phase, the EC completed conducting voting for 542 of the 543 elected seats in the Lok Sabha. The poll-panel cancelled the election process in Vellore Lok Sabha constituency in Tamil Nadu after the seizure of huge amount of money that would have been possibly used to influence voters.

The final phase of polling saw sporadic incidents of violence in West Bengal where clashes between political parties ahead of the final phase of polling prompted the EC to advance the start of the campaign silence period to 10 p.m. on Thursday instead of Friday evening.

The EC received reports of bombs being hurled near two polling stations of West Bengal during voting on Sunday. The poll-panel, however, dismissed allegations by the Trinamool Congress, which is in power in the state since 2011, that the central paramilitary forces deployed for polling had been asking the voters to cast votes in favour of the BJP. Deputy Election Commissioner, Sudeep Jain, told journalists in New Delhi that the paramilitary soldiers were not allowed to enter the polling stations and hence they had no scope for influencing the voters. He, however, confirmed that a disabled person was injured when the paramilitary soldiers deployed to guard a polling station in Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency dispersed am an agitated mob.

The poll-panel received reports about the fingers of some voters being inked before they could actually cast votes at Tara Jivanpur village in Chandauli Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh, Deputy Election Commissioner, Chandra Bhushan Kumar, said. A police complaint was lodged in this connection. The poll-panel also received reports about political clashes in other areas in the constituency as well as about people boycotting polls in Gorakhpur, Mirzapur, Varanasi and Mau.

Altogether 8049 candidates, who sought the mandate from over 90 crore voters across the nation, will know their fate on May 23, when the votes will be counted.

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