Lok Sabha elections 2019: India votes to elect new Lok Sabha, polling underway at 91 seats in 20 states
The first four hours of voting were largely smooth and peaceful barring a reports of violence in Andhra Pradesh and malfunctioning of EVMs in various constituencies.
India’s staggered general elections kicked off on Thursday with 91 Lok Sabha seats spread across 18 states and two Union Territories going to the polls, the first day of a nearly six-week-long process that constitutes the world’s largest democratic exercise.
The first four hours of voting were largely smooth and peaceful barring a reports of violence in Andhra Pradesh and malfunctioning of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) in various constituencies. Two people died in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantpur district in the clashes between supporters of the Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress.
EVM glitches were reported from Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. But overall enthusiasm was seen among voters, who were seen queuing up since early morning outside booths in Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Manipur and other states voting in the first phase of the national elections.
Soon after the polling began, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged voters, specially mentioning first-time voters, to come out in large numbers and exercise their franchise. Also appealing for large turnout were BJP chief Amit Shah and ministers Rajnath Singh and Kiren Rijiju.
Watch: LS Election 2019: First phase of voting kicks off across India
Among the early voters were Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrabbau Naidu and his family members, YSRCP leader Jagan Mohan Reddy, former Uttarakhand CMs Harish Rawat and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank .
A total of 142 million people will vote in 170,664 poll booths to decide the fates of 1,279 candidates. In addition to Lok Sabha elections, the states of Andhra Pradesh and Sikkim are also voting for new assemblies on Thursday, as are parts of the coastal state of Odisha. The counting of votes will take place on May 23.
The biggest chunk of seats are up for grabs in Andhra Pradesh, which is voting in the first election since bifurcation in 2014. Polling for all 25 Lok Sabha and 175 assembly seats are being held simultaneously. There are 2,118 candidates for the state polls and 319 for the Lok Sabha elections, whose fate will be decided by roughly 39 million voters.
Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief and chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu is be seeking election from Kuppam, while his son Nara Lokesh is making his electoral debut from Mangalagiri. The principal challenger, YSR Congress chief Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, is fighting from his family’s pocket borough of Pulivendula.
The neighbouring state of Telangana is voting for all 17 Lok Sabha seats. Having nearly swept the assembly elections in December, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi is hoping for a strong showing in a state where the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are the opposition parties.
There are 443 candidates in the fray in Telangana. The Nizamabad Lok Sabha constituency is a special case as 185 candidates are fighting the polls, forcing the Election Commission to issue jumbo Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
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Congress leader Renuka Chowdary (Khammam), All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi (Hyderabad), state Congress president N Uttam Kumar Reddy (Nalgonda) and Kalvakuntla Kavitha (Nizamabad), daughter of the chief minister, are among the high-profile Lok Sabha poll candidates in Telangana.
Voting is underway at eight Lok Sabha seats in communally sensitive western Uttar Pradesh, where the ruling BJP will clash with the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)-Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) alliance. All eyes are on Muzaffarnagar, where RLD chief Ajit Singh is taking on the BJP’s Sanjeev Balyan, the former Union minister. His son Jayant Chaudhary is in the fray against Union minister Satyapal Singh in Baghpat Lok Sabha constituency.
Seven Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra are going to polls with Union roads minister Nitin Gadkari locked in a battle with Congress’s Nana Patole, a former BJP MP, in Nagpur. Union minister and BJP leader, Hansaraj Ahir, is seeking a fourth term from Chandrapur.
In Bihar, voting is underway in four Lok Sabha constituencies. Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Chirag Paswan is contesting from Jamui seat, where Bhudeo Chaudhary of the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party is his main opponent. In the North-east, Union minister Kiren Rijiju is seeking re-election from Arunachal Pradesh West constituency; polling is being held at four seats in Assam with former chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s son Gaurav Gogoi fighting from Kaliabor.
In Chhattisgarh, the Maoist-affected Bastar seat is voting today amid tight security following an attack that killed a BJP lawmaker and four security personnel.
In Odisha, polling is taking place at four Lok Sabha and 28 assembly seats. Two Lok Sabha constituencies each in West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and Meghalaya are also voting in the first phase of the national elections. Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur, Nagaland, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar, and Lakshadweep are also voting in the first phase of the Lok Sabha polls.
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Two seats in the violence-hit Jammu and Kashmir, Jammu and Baramulla, are voting on Thursday amid a boycott call by separatists and tight security to offset protests sweeping the Valley against an order to restrict civilian movement on highways two days a week.
In the sensitive Baramulla seat, three-tier security is in place with 400 additional companies [a unit typically comprising between 80 and 150 personnel] of forces deployed for security of the polling stations, voters and staff. Officials said around 30,000 additional forces have been deployed.
The Lok Sabha elections are being held with a raft of new measures, such as Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails in all voting machines (which corresponded to 1.74 million VVPAT units) to end any doubts about the veracity of vote cast, photographs of the candidates in EVMs in an apparent attempt to end confusion between nominees with similar names. After a Supreme Court order, VVPAT will have to be tallied with the physical vote count in five EVMs in every constituency.