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India Elections: 64% Voting In Fourth Phase Of Polls, Clashes Reported

NEW DELHI:  Sporadic violence in Bengal and complaints to the Election Commission from the BJP and the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress marked polling in the fourth phase of the national election.

The Election Commission said the provisional voting figure is 64 percent. The highlight of this round was Mumbai, the country’s financial capital home to billionaires and celebrities.

For the ruling BJP, this round was crucial, with voting beginning in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – heartland states won by the Congress in assembly elections last year.

Overall, polling took place on 72 seats across nine states. The seven-phase election ends on May 19 and the results will be declared on May 23.

Complaints of faulty voting machines came from Bengal, Mumbai, and parts of Uttar Pradesh. In Bengal, where eight seats went to polls, reports of clashes came from various parts.

The worst clash was in Nanoor in Birbhum — close to Shantiniketan, an education hub set up by Rabindranath Tagore — in which one person was allegedly injured. In Asansol, Union Minister Babul Supriyo’s car was vandalized outside a polling station during a clash between the BJP and Trinamool Congress workers.

The BJP has filed a complaint with the Election Commission about the violence in the state and alleged several instances of booth capturing. The Trinamool too, has complained to the Commission about the “Illegal action of central forces” and violation of the Model Code of Conduct by BJP candidates.

Bollywood actors, celebrities and captains of industry turned out in strength to vote in Mumbai, the country’s financial capital. The Congress and its ally, Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress party or the NCP, are trying to wrest the city’s six seats from the BJP-Shiv Sena combine. Last time, the Sena won three seats and the BJP three.

Polling was held on 17 seats in Maharashtra, 13 each in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, eight in West Bengal, six each in Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, five in Bihar, three in Jharkhand and part of the Anantnag constituency in Jammu and Kashmir.

In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the Congress comeback is likely to prove a challenge for the BJP. Election data from both states show a victory in the assembly polls leads to an incremental return in the Lok Sabha elections. I n 2014, the BJP won 52 of the 54 seats — 25 in Rajasthan and 29 in Madhya Pradesh.

The 13 seats where elections were held in Uttar Pradesh, saw a direct contest between the BJP and SP-BSP alliance. In 2014, the BJP had won 12 of the 13 seats. Kannauj was won by Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple Yadav, who is seeking re-election.

Among the star candidates were Union ministers Giriraj Singh, Subhash Bhamre, SS Ahluwalia, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, PP Chaudhary, Sudarshan Bhagat, and Babul Supriyo. Former Union ministers Salman Khurshid and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury are also among the contestants.

The contest that got big attention was in Bihar’s Begusarai, between former student leader Kanhaiya Kumar and Union minister Giriraj Singh. Fielded by the CPI, Kumar has held a feisty campaign, attended by a number of celebrities. His candidature caused a fallout between the Left party and Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal.

In the first three phases, voting was held for 302 Lok Sabha constituencies; 168 seats will go to polls in the last three phases. The next phase of election will be held on May 6. Counting of votes will be held on May 23.