India Polling

Posted In India, Politics - By NitiN Kumar Jain On Friday, May 8th, 2009 With 2 Comments

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The fourth round of polling on Thursday saw an impressive average turnout of 57%, second highest so far in the ongoing elections, with violence marring the voting in two seats in Rajasthan and in trouble-prone Nandigram, though West Bengal recorded a high of 75% voting.

Haryana recorded 63% polling, the turnout in Rajasthan was 50%, 65% in Punjab, 37% in Bihar, 50% in UP and 24% in Srinagar. Though voting in Srinagar was low, it was better than 18.7% and 11.93% in 2004 and 1999.

Results of several key contests were sealed in EVMs with heavyweights like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Farooq Abdullah and Lalu Prasad in the fray.

Predictably, both BJP and Congress claimed trends favoured them. Congress managers claimed the party could bag up to 35 seats in this round, widening their lead over rival BJP with gains in Rajasthan where the party is eying 15 seats and in Haryana where it is confident of retaining seven of the nine seats it won last time. It also interpreted the high turnout in West Bengal as a boost to the alliance with Trinamool and went on to claim that the Left’s tally would be restricted to just over 20 of the total 42 seats.

It is crucial for these projections to come true for Congress to take the pole position ahead of BJP.

For its part, however, the BJP which claimed to be leading Congress after the three rounds of polling, said it kept the advantage largely because of good showing by party’s alliance with Ajit Singh’s RLD in western UP. BJP hopes to get 8-9 seats in partnership with RLD. It was also satisfied with its performance in Rajasthan, claiming that it was able to restrict gains for Congress from the state which gave 21 seats to NDA five years ago.

After Thursday, only 86 seats î º spread over TN (39), West Bengal (25), Punjab (9), Uttarakhand (5) and Himachal Pradesh (4) î º remain to be voted for. But even as the combatants reach the final stretch of the long campaign, there is no clear light on the likely winner.

Congress needs to do some brisk batting in Tamil Nadu î º which it had swept last time î º because of the not-so-satisfactory reports from Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Gujarat. BJP has no hopes in West Bengal and TN, but must do better in the last phase of UP, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh in order to make up for the losses in Rajasthan and Punjab where its partner Akalis are on a weak wicket.

Reports suggested that SP’s performance in Thursday’s round in UP î º spanning parts of Central and western UP î º may have fallen short of expectations, but the party, as Mulayam Singh Yadav’s threat to get Mayawati government dismissed showed, seemed to think otherwise.

BSP which many feel has not lived up to its frontrunner billing, might pick up a few seats like Gautam Budh Nagar (Noida) while Congress was not really in the picture in this phase of voting in UP.

The violence in West Bengal grabbed attention as CPM cadres in parts of Nandigram were at the receiving end for a change with the party’s polling agents absent on many booths. Three persons were killed in Asansol, Jangipur and Uluberia. In some places, CPM voters were prevented from reaching booths till noon. There were clashes in Jangipur where foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee is contesting.

The fourth phase was critical to CPM as the Left holds a majority of 17 seats that went to polls. It is felt that apart from Tamluk, under which Nandigram falls, Left could drop a few seats in north Bengal. But it may be holding on to its seats like Purulia and Uluberia. The important factor is the voting pattern of Bengali-speaking Muslims in the rural areas who have shown some dissatisfaction with CPM.

In Rajasthan, where usually polling takes place quite peacefully, there was violence in Tonk where one person was shot dead by the police. There were reports of rigging at Dausa where Meena and Gujjars allegedly captured booths in their areas of influence. With Meena strongman Kirorilal Meena facing Qamar Chechi, a Gujjar relocated from Kashmir, the clash of the two independents has attracted considerable attention.

While Congress seemed to have an edge in Rajasthan, the difference was perhaps narrow, with BJP a few seats behind. With BJP having gone in for a last-minute surge in campaigning, the battle remains intriguingly poised. If Congress holds its own, the party will get a much-needed boost in the final phase of elections. Congress seems well placed on the four Punjab seats that have gone to polls as well with attention focused on Bathinda where Congress leader Amarinder Singh’s son Raninder Singh is pitted against chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s daughter-in-law Harsimrat Kaur. It is felt the SAD has a very slight edge in the battle.

In Bihar, RJD leader Lalu Prasad seems to have made it with a good turnout of his supporters in Patliputra. After reports that polling in Saran, the other seat he is contesting, may not have gone his way, voting at Patliputra was crucial for him. JD(U) and BJP are set to win in Nalanda and Patna Sahib with former star Shatrughan Sinha on the latter seat.


courtesy: TOI