The world’s largest electoral exercise is over in more than 300 constituencies. With the conclusion of the third phase of elections in India, sixty six per cent of the 18.85 crore electorate in the third phase exercised their franchise to elect 116 representatives to the lower House of Indian Parliament. Election Commission of India has overseen smooth conduct of elections for three phases out of the total seven; in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.
Indian electorate has already cast their ballot in 303 Parliamentary constituencies out of the 543 seats. In the midst of a feverish election campaign, star campaigners of various political outfits are lending their weight behind their respective candidates.
In the third phase of polling, as many as 1640 candidates were in the fray for 116 Parliamentary constituencies. That a large number of candidates contested elections surely demonstrates the strength of India’s vibrant and participative democracy. The 66 per cent voter turnout is a firm indicator of people’s deep faith in democracy. The polling for the 3rd phase saw enthused voters queuing up at their polling booths since early morning in all the 14 states and 2 union territories.
The third phase alone saw over two lakh polling booths set up across the country. “Every vote counts” was also aptly affirmed with Election Commission setting up a polling booth in Banej village, deep in the Gir forest, Gujarat, known for Asiatic lions; only for the lone voter.
Gujarat, in the west of India, voted for all its 26 Lok Sabha seats. Kerala, known to the world as ‘God’s Own Country’ and for thick vegetation and backwaters; voted for all its 20 Parliamentary constituencies. Besides, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, Tripura, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu too went to the polls. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal would see polling in the remaining four phases also on account of logistical and security reasons.
Anantnag Parliamentary constituency in Jammu and Kashmir went partially to the polls in the third phase. The election to this constituency would be completed in another two phases. Anantnag, incidentally, is the only Lok Sabha seat where elections are being held in three phases on account of security concerns.
Election Commission of India has laudably taken tough measures to ensure that the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is enforced in letter and spirit in the ongoing elections. Alluring voters is prohibited even though some political outfits at certain places have made attempts to influence the electorate. The Election Commission of India has come down heavily against such unscrupulous elements. No less than Rs. 3,100 crore has been seized from across the country by the ever alert election personnel till the conclusion of the third phase of polling.
The Election Commission hasn’t spared erring politicians too; who have sought to violate the Model Code of Conduct. Election Commission rightly barred some leading politicians from across the political spectrum from campaigning for a few days for breaching the sacrosanct Model Code of Conduct. Appealing for votes on caste and religious lines is a serious violation of the Model Code of Conduct.
Enthusiasm of the voters in the ongoing elections is laudable. The zeal of young voters has been well noted in the first three phases. Animated discussion amongst the electorate is representative of well informed electors; this would surely bode well for the future of India.
Millions of security personnel and polling staff rightly deserve accolades for their tiresome work in the field. It is their commitment that ensures the smooth conduct of elections.
Four phases of polling are yet to be held for the remaining 240 Lok Sabha seats. The final phase of voting is slated for May 19. The verdict for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections would be known on May 23. Until then, hectic political campaigning would be witnessed in those constituencies.
Script: Manish Anand, Sr. Principal Correspondent, the New Indian Express