• Tuesday, May 28, 2024

INDIA

India elections 2024: What we learned this week

Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar, BJP’s Hema Malini and Arun Govil, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor were the prominent contestants in the second phase

People wait in lines to cast their votes at a polling station during the second phase of general election in Ezhupunna village in Kerala state, India, April 26, 2024. REUTERS/Sivaram V

By: Shajil Kumar

A 63 per cent turnout was recorded during the second phase of Lok Sabha polls across 88 seats in 13 states and union territories on April 26. The Election Commission has said it is likely to go upwards when reports from all polling stations are obtained.

This is lower than the 65 per cent in the first phase last week, and 68 per cent in the second phase five years ago.

Votes were cast in all 20 Lok Sabha seats of Kerala, 14 of the 28 seats in Karnataka, 13 seats in Rajasthan, eight seats each in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, six seats in Madhya Pradesh, five seats each in Assam and Bihar, three seats each in Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, and one seat each in Manipur, Tripura and Jammu and Kashmir.

Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar, BJP’s Tejasvi Surya, Hema Malini and Arun Govil, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor and former Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy were the prominent contestants.

Violence was reported in Manipur when miscreants vandalised EVMs at two polling stations in Ukhrul. The state’s Congress unit has demanded re-polling at the affected stations.

Here’s a look at the key election developments this week:

Supreme court rules out paper ballots

Supreme Court has declined to order any change to the vote-counting process, rejecting petitions seeking a return to the ballot system or to tally all paper slips generated as proof of voting for votes recorded by electronic machines.

A sealed Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) and an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) are pictured at a polling station after the end of the first phase of the general election, in Alipurduar district in the eastern state of West Bengal, India, April 19, 2024. REUTERS/Sahiba Chawdhary

“Blindly discussing any aspect of the system can lead to unwarranted scepticism and impede progress,” Justice Dipankar Datta said, after the two judge-bench delivered a unanimous verdict.

India has been using Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) since 2000 to record votes. The ballot unit is connected to a VVPAT or ‘voter verifiable paper audit trail’ unit which produces a paper slip that is visible to the voter via a transparent screen for about seven seconds before it gets stored in a sealed drop box.

Under the present system, the poll body counts and matches the VVPAT paper slips at five randomly selected polling stations in each state legislative assembly constituency. There is a demand to conduct verification at more booths to increase transparency.

Congress releases Haryana list

The Congress party has released its first list of eight candidates for the Lok Sabha elections in Haryana slated to be held in the sixth phase of elections on May 25.

The party has fielded state Youth Congress president Divyanshu Buddhi Raja against former chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar from Karnal constituency. Similarly, it has fielded former Haryana Congress president Kumari Selja from Sirsa seat.

Haryana has 10 Lok Sabha seats and the BJP had won all of them in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Row over PM’s speech

Congress party and many other social organisations have approached the Election Commission to take action against prime minister Narendra Modi for his speech made in Rajasthan on April 21.

modi-hate-speech-bjp
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during an election campaign rally in Meerut, India, March 31, 2024. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

During an election rally he said: “When the Congress-led government was in power, they had said that Muslims have the first right over the country’s assets. This means that they will distribute wealth to those who have more children and those who are infiltrators. Is this acceptable to you?”

The Congress party has pointed out that this is hate speech and violates the election code of conduct that forbids candidates from appealing “to caste or communal feelings” to secure votes.

The Election Commission has sought response from the Bharatiya Janata Party.

No contest in Surat
The Lok Sabha seat in Surat, Gujarat, was won uncontested by the BJP, with nomination papers of two Congress candidates cancelled, and other candidates withdrawing their nominations.

BJP’s Mukesh Dalal was declared the winner without a single vote having to be polled.
Congress candidate Nilesh Kumbhani had submitted signatures of his brother-in-law Jagdish Savaliya, nephew Dhruvin Dhamelia and business partner Ramesh Polra as his proposers when he filed his nomination on April 18.

The BJP objected to the election officer over the signatures of the three proposers of Kumbhani and proposer Bhautik Koladiya of Suresh Padsala, the Congress party’s substitute candidate, saying they are forged. Later the four proposers submitted an affidavit disowning the signatures on the nomination papers.

The district election officer of Surat rejected the Congress candidates’ nomination.

Trivia

ranveer-singh-deep-fake
File photo of actor Ranveer Singh (REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke)

Maharashtra police’s cyber cell has registered an FIR against an X user @sujataindia1st for allegedly uploading a ‘deepfake’ or manipulated video in which actor Ranveer Singh appeared to be appealing to vote for the Congress.

Ranveer Singh gave an interview to the media praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But in the deepfake video, the actor is heard attacking Modi and exhorting people to support Congress.

Quote

“The Congress ruled for 50 years. Has anyone robbed you of your gold or your mangalsutra? When the war was on, Indira Gandhi gave her gold to the country. My mother’s mangalsutra was sacrificed for this country,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress leader

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