An overall 64.66 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the third phase as people in 116 constituencies across 15 states voted to elect their representatives to the 17th Lok Sabha. The third – and the largest phase – in the 7 phase-long elections covered crucial states including Kerala, Gujarat and Western UP. BJP president Amit Shah from Gandhinagar in Gujarat, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad in Kerala, and several Union ministers are among those in the fray.
The stakes are high for the ruling NDA as they bagged 66 seats out of these 116 seats in the 2014 elections, while the Congress and its alliance partners won 27.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accompanied by Shah, cast his vote from Ranip in Ahmedabad. Shah is contesting for the first time from party veteran LK Advani’s bastion Gandhinagar.
In Kerala, where Congress president Rahul Gandhi is contesting from Wayanad – in addition to family bastion Amethi – there were reports of glitches in EVMs. EVMs were said to be malfunctioning in Cherthala in Alappuzha district, and Kovalam in the state capital.
With voting in the remaining 14 of 28 seats in Karnataka, elections in southern states of India will be over. Voting was also affected in parts of Bihar with EVMs malfunctioning in two polling stations in Khagaria, and three booths in Jhanjharpur, official sources told PTI.
Polling in 10 seats in Western Uttar Pradesh will decide the fate of four members of Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav’s clan, and that of senior party leader Azam Khan. Khan is contesting against his former colleague-turned-rival Jaya Prada in Rampur.
Polling was slow in Anantnag in Kashmir with many voters choosing to remain indoors. In the fray are 18 candidates, including former CM Mehbooba Mufti. Chhattisgarh votes in seven seats amid tight security, following a Naxal attack earlier this month which killed BJP MLA Bhima Mandavi. In Maharashtra, all eyes will be on the Baramati seat, where NCP’s Supriya Sule, the daughter of party co-founder Sharad Pawar, is seeking a third term in the Lok Sabha. The BJP has upped its game and has been telling cadres to make every effort to defeat Sule.
A tentative 73.06 per cent voter turnout was recorded till 3 pm across all 20 parliamentary constituencies of Kerala. Many polling stations witnessed long queues even as there were complaints of technical glitches in some electronic voting machines. Prominent candidates in the fray include Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor and Union minister Alphons Kannamthanam.
Known for its decades-long bipolar politics, Kerala will witness a stiff competition contest between the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF and Opposition Congress-headed UDF. This time, the BJP-led NDA is posing a formidable challenge to the two traditional fronts in constituencies like Thiruvananthapuram and Pathanamthitta, the epicentre of the Sabarimala agitation. Women, senior citizens and first-time electors turned up in large numbers to exercise their franchise.
A total of 227 candidates are in the fray in the state, including 23 women. Governor P Sathasivam, Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chenntithala, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Malayalam superstars Mohanlal and Mammootty and candidates of various constituencies were among the early voters.
Technical glitches in EVMs were reported from polling booths in Alappuzha district’s Cherthala and Thiruvananthapuram’s Kovalam regions in the initial hours of voting. Thiruvananthapuram district collector K Vasuki, however, brushed aside reports of glitches in the machine in Kovalam. The official said it was ensured that the machine was error-free and the polling had continued.
After casting his vote at Pinarayi in northern Kannur district, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters that there was some problem in the voting machine in his booth and in two other places nearby. He further said that the Election Commission should have ensured that machines were free of any glitches.In the 2014 election, the UDF had won 12 seats, with the Left parties victorious in eight seats. The BJP is yet to open its Lok Sabha account in the state. In Wayanad, Rahul Gandhi is facing CPI’s PP Suneer, while the NDA has fielded Thushar Vellappally of Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS).
The high-profile Wayanad constituency has the most candidates– 20, and the lowest number is in Alathur in Palakkad district (6). There are 2.61 crore voters– 1,26,81,992 men, 1,34,64,688 women and 173 third gender voters. The strength of first-time voters in Kerala is 2.88 lakh, who are in the age group of 18-19. Polling will end at 6 PM in 24,970 polling stations.
Single-phase polling in Gujarat saw a string of senior BJP leaders voting, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, and veteran party leader L K Advani. Other leaders included Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and state president Jitu Vaghani. Governors Vajubhai Vala, Anandiben Patel and O P Kohli also cast their votes from the state. Opposition leader Paresh Dhanani exercised his franchise, along with Congress leader Bharatsinh Solanki.
The BJP, which won all 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat in 2014, is in a direct contest with the Congress. The state clocked 62.36 per cent polling; the highest was in Bardoli at 68.9 per cent.
Four Assembly bypolls — Dhrangadhra, Manavadar, Unjha and Jamnagar (Rural) — are also being held with the Lok Sabha elections. These were necessitated after the Congress MLAs from the constituencies quit and joined the BJP. The Talala bypoll, which was to be held today, was stayed by the Supreme Court.
Gujarat witnessed a high-pitched campaign ahead of the polls, with several political bigwigs descending upon the state. Apart from the usual suspects, it was from here that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra decided to hold her first roadshow after entering active politics. Flanked by Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on either side, Priyanka chose Gandhinagar for her debut rally and public speech.
Among the key contenders in Gujarat is Amit Shah, who is contesting in his first Lok Sabha election from Gandhinagar. This seat has 19.21 lakh voters, the highest number of voters in the state. The constituency, which has been a BJP bastion since the Ram temple movement in the 1990s, has been held by Advani for the last six terms. The Congress has fielded its two-time sitting MLA and former deputy collector, CJ Chavda, to take on Shah.
The Vadodara seat, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi won but vacated for Varanasi in the 2014 election, is also being closely watched. BJP’s Ranjan Bhatt is seeking re-election from here and is up against first-time Congress candidate Prashant Patel. Vadodara is a predominantly urban seat with 17.94 lakh voters.
Dahod, a key constituency and an ST-reserved seat, is a Congress stronghold. The party has won the seat in 14 Lok Sabha elections since 1962, while the BJP won it twice. Interestingly, Babubhai Katara, who won the 2014 polls on a BJP ticket, is seeking re-election for the Congress. The BJP has fielded Union Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Jaswantsinh Bhabhor.
From Anand, former minister and veteran Congress leader Bharat Solanki is contesting against BJP debutante Mitesh Patel. Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Paresh Dhanani, is standing from Amreli against BJP’s Dilip Sanghani. Interestingly, the five Assembly segments under this constituency, which is a BJP stronghold, was won by the Congress in the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections.