On Wednesday, during polling day, the “glamourous” constituency of Rae Bareli got an unlikely visitor in the form of the British High Commissioner James Bevan. He like others seems to have been smitten by the ongoing general elections. Armed with his army of men, he visited booths and interacted with voters to get a first-hand experience of the ground situation.
Speaking to the Indian Express, he said: “There is no substitute to ground truth. There is enormous interest for the Indian elections in Britain, and are being “watched very closely.” Terming the elections as “historic”, Bevan said he felt honoured to witness it from close quarters and said he has not decided if he would visit Varanasi. Playing down the euphoria surrounding “Modi wave”, he added that Britain would work closely with “whoever is democratically elected.”
However, despite Bevan’s presence, the mood in Sonia Gandhi’s constituency was largely sombre, with a sizeable percentage of voters not exercising their franchise on polling day. While party leaders attributed the low turnout to the high temperature, when The Indian Express visited booths in different parts of the constituency, voters said there were less motivated to vote.
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At Belhani village, about 40 km from Rae Bareli on the Lalganj-Dalmau road, over 70 per cent villagers did not vote in protest of not having a road in their village, which they have been requesting for past decade. “In 2009, majority of us had voted for the Congress on assurance of getting a road constructed. In 2012, we voted for the SP as their candidate said he would get a road constructed from Vidhayak Nidhi (MLA fund), if we voted for him. Both of them have been a failure. Thus, we have decided that we will vote only after a road is constructed,” 40-year-old Vinod Yadav, a villager said.
At 5.35 pm, with less than half an hour left for polling, one of the neighbouring booths at Balram Singh Upper Primary School saw only 182 voters out of the 818 registered voters exercising their franchise.
Earlier in the day, at Ganesh Vidyalaya Inter college, Aehar, the booth that caters to area surrounding Lalganj Rail Coach factory, Raghuram, a marginalised farmer from neighbouring Balemau village, who had come with his wife and daughter to vote said with disappointment: “Yahan to Sonia ji hi hain. Aur kaun. Par ek baat bata dein, factory se humein koi fayeda nahi hua.” (Even though he is a Congress supporter, he wanted to clarify that factory has not helped him and his family).
His wife added: “They say the rate of land has increased, but this small piece of land is our life. Where will we go, if we sell it for money and how long will that money last.” Elsewhere, at Sahjaura Primary School booth near Bachhrawan, booth agents of Congress and BJP were involved in a heated discussion over their parties’ poll prospects.
“I have been telling him that places, where Congress voters are more are witnessing lesser voter turnout this time,” said Ravindra Bahadur Singh, BJP booth agent. The estimated polling at Rae Bareli Wednesday stood at around 54 per cent, which is just 6 per cent higher than last year.