India's longest-ever elections draws to a close
By Mubasshir Mushtaq, Monday, May 12, 2014
NEW DELHI – The biggest and longer-ever elections drew to a close in India on Monday with voting in key states and a face-off between two parties' leading candidates.
Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the north saw more than half their electorate turnout while in eastern state West Bengal, the 77 percent turnout kept with the state's trend for having more engaged voters than elsewhere.
The high-profile Varanasi constituency in Uttar Pradesh, where Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate was pitched against popular anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, recorded 53 percent voting. Election Commission officials ordered a complaint to be registered against Ajay Rai, the Congress party candidate from the holy town, who walked inside a polling booth with his party’s election symbol attached to his shirt. Flashing election symbols on a day of voting is an offense under India’s election law.
Voting in West Bengal, the stronghold of regional party Trinamool Congress (TMC), was marred by a series of violent incidents. Mina Devi Purohit, former deputy mayor of state capital Kolkata, was targeted by bombs in the Burrabazar area. In a separate incident, at least four people were hit by bullets and 13 others injured when TMC and Communist Party of India (Marxist) party workers allegedly clashed. A Communist Party office was reportedly attacked by a TMC councillor.
Talking to reporters, Communist party leader Sitaram Yechury alleged that TMC was terrorizing voters claiming 800 polling booths in the state witnessed “malpractices”.
“We want all these booths to go for fresh polls,” Yechury said.
In a video message Modi, the frontrunner to be the next prime minister, called on people to vote with “zeal” and “enthusiasm”, which Aam Aadmi Party complained was a violation of rules banning political addresses while polling was still underway.
A plethora of television news channels broadcast exit poll results immediately after voting closed in the six-week long parliamentary election. According to all opinion polls, the Hindu nationalist BJP will form the next federal government. The Election Commission had banned opinion polls till 6.30 pm on Monday.
India’s stock market rose to a 10-month high on Monday amid speculation that the right-wing BJP is set to win the national election.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was given three more days to respond to the election commission notice about an alleged remark that 22000 people will be killed if the BJP comes to power.
Over 570 million people voted in the national election in nine different phases, which started on April 7. The record voter turnout broke the earlier record of 1984 when India witnessed 66 percent voting.
The election result will be declared Friday May 16 when a single-day pan-India counting session is scheduled to take place.
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