LS polls phase 1: Voting underway in 102 seats, leaders urge people to turn up in large numbers

PTI, Apr 19, 2024, 10:12 AM IST

PTI photo

Voting was underway on Friday in 102 Lok Sabha seats spread across 21 states and Union territories in the first of the seven phases of the world’s largest electoral exercise, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging voters to exercise their franchise in record numbers.

He especially called upon the young and first-time voters to vote in large numbers.

Polling began at 7 AM and will end at 6 PM. Over 16.63 crore people are eligible to vote in this phase. In the first phase, there are 35.67 lakh first time voters, besides 3.51 crore young voters in the age group of 20-29 years.

As the voting commenced, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge urged voters to cast their ballots carefully and asserted that a new era of economic empowerment and equal opportunities beckons them.

Appealing to people to go out and vote in large numbers, he said on X that “The fight to protect our Constitution and Democracy begins today”.

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi urged voters to strengthen democracy and open ‘Mohabbat ki Dukaan’ in every corner of the country by defeating hatred.

“Today is the first phase of voting! Remember, each and every vote of yours is going to decide the future of India’s democracy and its generations,” Gandhi said in a post in Hindi on X.

“Go out and strengthen democracy by applying the balm of your vote on the wounds inflicted on the soul of the country in the last 10 years,” he said.

Open ‘Mohabbat Ki Dukaan’ in every corner of the country by defeating hatred, the Congress leader added.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah appealed to people to choose a strong and decisive leadership that has shown the determination to free the country from corruption, nepotism and appeasement while fulfilling its promises.

Election officials said a voter turnout of 11.15 per cent was recorded in the first two hours of polling in the five Lok Sabha seats of Assam, while over 15 per cent voters exercised their franchise in three Lok Sabha constituencies of West Bengal.

Among the prominent early voters were Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, who cast his vote at Walbakgre polling station in Tura Lok Sabha constituency, Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, who cast his ballot in Nagpur, Union Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, who exercised his franchise in Bikaner and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami at Nagra Terai polling station in Khatima.

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Union Minister Kiren Rijiju also cast their votes at their native villages as the polling for two Lok Sabha seats and 50 assembly constituencies in the state got underway.

Sangma, who himself drove to reach the polling station, said, “I reached the booth at 6.30 hoping to vote first. But I was pleasantly surprised that there were many people before me. It is a healthy trend. Voting is a right of every citizen”.

Rijiju cast his vote in his village Nafra in the newly created Bichom district, while Khandu exercised his franchise in the Mukto constituency in Tawang district.

Counting of votes in the elections that will conclude on June one will be taken up on June 4.

Polling is being held for all seats of Tamil Nadu (39), Uttarakhand (5), Arunachal Pradesh (2), Meghalaya (2), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (1), Mizoram (1), Nagaland (1), Puducherry (1), Sikkim (1) and Lakshadweep (1).

Besides, voting is underway in 12 seats of Rajasthan, eight in Uttar Pradesh, six in Madhya Pradesh, five seats each in Assam and Maharashtra, four in Bihar, three in West Bengal, two in Manipur, and one seat each in Tripura, Jammu and Kashmir and Chhattisgarh.

Simultaneously, assembly elections are being held in Arunachal Pradesh (60 seats) and Sikkim (32 seats).

Among the prominent candidates in the fray in the first phase are Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Sarbananda Sonowal, Gaurav Gogoi of Congress and DMK’s Kanimozhi. An aggressive K Annamalai, who is steering the BJP campaign in Tamil Nadu, is also among the contestants.

The Election Commission has deployed over 18 lakh polling personnel across 1.87 lakh polling stations.

While the National Democratic alliance (NDA) under Prime Minister Modi is seeking a stronger majority, the constituents of the opposition INDIA bloc are hoping for a rebound after facing reverses in the 2014 and 2019 elections.

Besides Gadkari, Sonowal, seven other Union ministers–Bhupendra Yadav, Kiren Rijiju, Sanjeev Baliyan, Jitendra Singh, Arjun Ram Meghwal, L Murugan and Nisith Pramanik–are in the poll fray in the first phase.

Two former chief ministers–Biplab Kumar Deb (Tripura) and Nabam Tuki (Arunachal Pradesh)–and Tamilisai Soundararajan, who recently resigned as governor of Telangana to return to active politics, also figure in the poll battle. Soundararajan is contesting from Chennai South on BJP ticket.

Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar on Thursday urged people to cast their ballot and reminded people of the significance of each vote, saying there have been instances when one vote has mattered in a critical contest.

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