Amidst firing in West Bengal, 63.8% turnout in sixth phase

Wednesday 15th May 2019 06:38 EDT

Polling for the 6th and penultimate phase of the Lok Sabha election on Sunday last saw 63.8% turnout in 59 parliamentary constituencies amid fresh incidents of violence in West Bengal, which also polled the highest. There were reports of unruly mobs in Bengal being fired on, with one such mob targeting BJP candidate from Ghatal Bharati Ghosh, and poll boycotts at a few polling stations in Jhargram and Purulia. There was a blast at Chaibasa in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum parliamentary constituency, apart from community clashes at Jamshedpur, though the Election Commission claimed they did not affect polling.

The polling across six states and a Union territory was slightly higher than the 63.7% in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. According to the figures, the turnouts were moderate to high across the six states and UT, which included Delhi. West Bengal was top of the table with 80.5% turnout (down from 84.98% in 2014), followed by Haryana with 69.5%, Madhya Pradesh with 64.9%, Jharkhand with 64.5%, Delhi with 60.5%, Bihar with 59.3% and UP with 54.7%. Elections were held in 14 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 10 seats in Haryana, eight constituencies each in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, seven seats in Delhi and four in Jharkhand.

With Sunday’s phase, polling for 483 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats has been completed. State wise, polling is over in 28 states and Union Territories. The seventh and last phase of polling on May 19 will cover 59 seats across eight states/UTs - Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Chandigarh.

This will be followed by counting on May 23, for which the EC has made special arrangements, including technical innovations to enable seamless and real-time dissemination of results. According to the EC’s final figures, till the fifth phase of polling, turnout was 67.4%, higher than the corresponding figure of 66.07% in 2014. For Delhi, where all seven Lok Sabha seats went to polls on Sunday, the voter turnout was less than that recorded in the past three polls - 67.15% in the 2015 assembly polls, 65.1% in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and 65.60% in the 2013 assembly polls. However, it was much higher than the 51.84% turnout recorded in 2009.

In Tamluk in West Bengal, the CRPF was forced to fire in the air to disperse an unruly mob, after which polling resumed and went off peacefully. In Haldia assembly segment, EVMs were damaged at a polling station before the start of polling. In Ghatal, BJP’s Bharati Ghosh faced resistance from female voters. Thereafter, in another area of the same constituency, there was stone-pelting by villagers on her car. Security personnel on the spot did a lathicharge and subsequent firing saw one Bakhtiyar Khan receive a bullet injury.

In Bihar’s Sheohar constituency, accidental firing by a home guard killed a poll officer prior to the start of mock poll.

Meanwhile, the EC has directed that Mukta Arya be posted as Bankura district magistrate with immediate effect.

The EC said the EVM/ VVPAT replacement rate on Sunday was one of the lowest, with 0.35% ballot units, 0.38% control units and 1.52% of VVPATs replaced.

Till the sixth phase of polling, seizures by the EC totalled £341.5 million, which included £82.7 million cash, liquor worth £28.5 million, drugs worth £1,26.1 million, precious metals worth £98.4 million and freebies worth £5.7 million.

Also, between March 10 and now, on the EC’s request, Facebook has taken down 637 posts, Twitter 145, YouTube 5, WhatsApp three and ShareChat 31 posts that were in violation of the model code or Representation of the People Act.

Delhi's transgender voters excited

Excited about voting under their chosen gender identity for the first time in general elections, the transgender voters in the national capital flaunted their inked fingers and expressed hope for a government which ensures them a better future. This is the first time that transgenders are voting under the category after Supreme Court had declared them as the “third gender” in 2014. Earlier they had to vote as male or female.

For 32-year-old Janasheen, it was an incredible experience. “I have voted before but this is the first time I am voting as a transgender, an identity which I am proud of now. I have also posted a selfie on my WhatsApp status with my inked finger.”

Sapna Bai, a transgender who voted in Matia Mahal said, “I am very happy that I can cast my vote as what I really am. I want a new government which thinks about us and also consider us equally on their agenda.”

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