1 Down, 6 More to Go: First Phase of Lok Sabha Polls Records over 60% Turnout as Voters Brave ‘Fryday’ Heatwave in Many Parts – News18

The seven-phase marathon Lok Sabha elections got off to a flying start on Friday with 102 seats across 21 states and union territories up for grabs as voters braved a sweltering heatwave in many parts of the country to pick their parliamentary representatives. An average voter turnout of 60.03 per cent was recorded till 7pm, and the number could rise.

Seats in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, and Puducherry saw polling.

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance is eyeing its third consecutive term at the Centre this general election with the slogan of “Abki baar 400 paar”, while parties from the opposition INDIA bloc are banking on their promises of MSP for farmers, cash handouts for women, and more reservations for the backward sections to stage an upset.

To achieve its target, the Bharatiya Janata Party is heavily banking on southern states like Karnataka and especially Tamil Nadu — where it is yet to open its account — as well as West Bengal.

More than 16.63 crore voters, including over 8 crore men and women, were eligible to cast their vote at nearly 2 lakh polling stations on Friday.

Tripura, whose one seat went to polls, recorded the highest polling percentage of 79.9 per cent, followed by West Bengal (3 seats) at 77.57 per cent, while Puducherry reported a 73.25 per cent voter turnout. The lowest voting took place in Bihar where only 47.49 per cent of voters landed up for polling in four seats.

Around 2,500 voters crossed the India-Bangladesh border on Friday to cast their votes in Tripura, reported news agency ANI. A substantial number of voters in the state are forced to stay beyond the barbed fences for historical reasons.

Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Bhupendra Yadav, Kiren Rijiju, Jitendra Singh, Arjun Ram Meghwal and Sarbananda Sonowal were among the key candidates in the fray in the first phase. Congress’s Gaurav Gogoi, DMK’s Kanimozhi, and BJP’s Tamil Nadu chief K Annamalai were also contesting.

In 2019, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance won 45 of the 102 seats in play on Friday and the NDA 41. Six of these seats have been redrawn as part of the delimitation exercise.

Addressing an election rally, union home minister Amit Shah said, “In the first phase, bumper voting is taking place across the country. Whoever goes in, comes out shouting ‘Modi, Modi’.”

In Jammu and Kashmir’s Bhaderwah area, a groom decked up in a sherwani was among the first to cast his vote for the Lok Sabha elections. Speaking to News18, he said that he preferred to exercise his right to vote ahead of his wedding and kept the bride waiting at a marriage hall in the Seri area of Bhaderwah.

Throughout the day, there were also incidents of shooting and intimidation in violence-hit Manipur, sporadic clashes between Trinamool Congress and BJP workers in West Bengal, and poll boycott calls leading to no voting in six districts of Nagaland.

In Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawan has reportedly suffered injuries from a grenade blast. Voting was held in the state’s conflict-ridden Bastar region where at least 29 Maoists were reportedly killed by security forces in a major operation earlier this week.

The Election Commission deployed over 18 lakh polling personnel across 1.87 lakh polling stations on the 102 seats across the 21 states and union territories.

Polling for the 60 assembly seats in Arunachal Pradesh and 32 seats in Sikkim was also held on Friday.

According to the Election Commission, approximately 67.95 per cent of voting was recorded in Sikkim, while a 65.85 per cent turnout was recorded in Arunachal Pradesh till 5 pm.

Arunachal Pradesh witnessed violence as supporters of two candidates clashed near a polling station in the Bameng constituency in East Kameng district, Inspector General of Police (Law & Order) Chukhu Apa was quoted saying by news agency PTI.

Incidents of EVM damage were also reported at three polling stations in East Kameng, Kurung Kumey, and Upper Subansiri districts. The machines were then replaced and polling was resumed.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the BJP has already won 10 constituencies unopposed in the 60-member assembly.

A total of 146 candidates, including chief minister Prem Singh Tamang, his predecessor Pawan Kumar Chamling, former footballer Bhaichung Bhutia, and Tamang’s wife Krishna Kumari Rai were in the fray for 32 assembly constituencies in Sikkim.

Voting was held in 573 polling stations, of which 88 were in urban and 485 in rural areas.

Thirteen companies of CAPF were deployed in Sikkim, of which five companies were from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and eight from Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).

(With agency inputs)

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