In the last round of Lok Sabha election 2014 that is going on today, 41 constituencies in 3 States are electing their respective representatives. Over 506 million people have already exercised their franchise in 502 constituencies where polling has already been held in eight phases.
It has been a 35-day, 9-phase-long marathon polling season marred by many complaints of violence, booth capturing and vote rigging, with the Election Commission having to address the press a few days ago to plead it was trying to conduct the elections to the best of its capabilities after the BJP and Left Front constituents led other parties in complaining that the agency’s conduct has not entirely been efficient and impartial.
So far, the national average for voter turnout has been 66.21%. If this last round witnesses a good turnout, India will surpass the 64% turnout registered in the 1984 elections held after Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
In the ninth phase, 600 candidates are in the fray in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. Nearly 66 million voters are expected to seal their electoral fortunes.
Varanasi, from where the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is contesting apart from Vadodara that has already voted, is the most keenly followed constituency in this round. As expected, the party has decided to make him retain this seat in the event of his victory in both the places, as it has reckoned that for the Gujaratis it will be enough reason to be happy that a fellow Gujarati will be the country’s prime minister, while Modi can concentrate in overhauling and developing this neglected region of the country. Modi is being challenged by former anti-social element Ajay Rai who is contesting on an Indian National Congress (INC) ticket and is expecting to forge a caste alliance of Bhumihars, Thakurs and Brahmins. His peer and alleged killer of his elder brother, Mukhtar Ansari has extended him support. Also in the fray is Arvind Kejriwal, the head of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), who has faced the accusation that he “ran away” from Delhi where the people had given him a reasonable mandate to rule since the day he began his campaign. He has concentrated mostly on the Muslim-dominated and poorest pockets of Varanasi with a campaign team largely borrowed from different parts of the country. Political observers are not taking the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidates fighting for this seat seriously. In all, 42 candidates are in the fray for the Varanasi parliamentary constituency, which has 1.7 million registered voters.
Of the 41 seats going to polls, the Trinamool Congress (TC) had won 14 seats in 2009, followed by 6 each by the BJP and the SP, 5 by the BSP and 4 by the INC.
Considering the importance of the region, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has decided to contest from Azamgarh.
Varanasi and Azamgarh being on the eastern flank of Uttar Pradesh, known also as Purvanchal, the fact that the topmost leaders of different parties are fighting from here is believed to enthuse their respective cadre bases in the region. The effect is felt in large parts of Bihar as well.
Other prominent leaders in the last phase are Union minister Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (Behrampur – West Bengal), BJP leader Jagdambika Pal (Domariyaganj), Union minister RPN Singh (Kushi Nagar – both UP) and former minister and RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (Vaishali – Bihar).
In neighbouring Bihar, pollsters have predicted a drubbing for Nitish Kumar, as he is set to lose the Muslims because they could consider Lalu Prasad Yadav a greater champion of ‘secularism’ because of his alliance with INC that can take on the might of the BJP at the national level. Meanwhile, those who appreciated Kumar’s record of governance have largely moved to the BJP as they perceive that the national party was responsible for the development drive in the region. That Yadav is now a convict does not appear to be an issue in the State.
In Bengal, amid howls of protest over the TC’s hooliganism, the BJP is believed to make inroads into the State that has largely not been impressed by it since its emergence during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. The TC is being seen as a failure on the governance front, but it remains the strongest in the State followed by the CPI(M)-led left Front that has not yet recovered the ground it lost in the 2011 Assembly elections. The results are, hence, expected to show the TC with the largest tally, followed by the Left. The BJP, with Modi’s promise of stern action against Bangladeshi infiltrators and development of the neglected regions, is expected to increase the total number of seats it won in the State the last time and also upset some equations in other constituencies where it will garner a big chunk of votes even though it won’t win them.
Polling in Varanasi saw 28% of the electorate come out and vote until 11 am. By then, the whole of Uttar Pradesh witnessed relatively slower polling and the turnout stood at 23.67%. Bihar recorded 24.56% voting. West Bengal leads again with 41% turnout till 11 am. BJP supporters are attributing the constant higher percentage of voter attendance in the State (as compared to that in others) to extra zeal of Bangladeshi infiltrators who are among the first to ensure they get voter identity cards and their names registered in the electoral roll with a wish to secure their position in this country.
West Bengal witnesses 56% polling, Bihar 38% till 1 pm. Nearly 37% voters exercised their franchise till then in Uttar Pradesh.