New Delhi: All eyes are set on results of the bitterly-contested Lok Sabha elections, which will be announced on Thursday. The counting of votes will bring the curtains down on the world’s biggest democratic exercise conducted across seven phases over 39 days.
The counting for the 542 Lok Sabha seats, which went to polls from April 11, will begin at 8 am and the results will decide the fate of more than 8,000 candidates. The Election Commission calculated the voter turnout to be 67.11%, the highest for any Lok Sabha election.
For the first time in general elections, the EC will tally the vote count on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) with Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips in five polling stations in each Assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency. This means that out of nearly 10.3 lakh polling stations, the EVM-VVPAT matching will be conducted in 20,600 such stations.
In case of a mismatch, the results based on paper slip count will be considered to be final.
EC officials have said this exercise of matching EVM vote counts with VVPAT slips will take an additional four to five hours.
In the 2014 elections, the BJP won 282 seats while the Congress had suffered a drubbing, managing an all-time low of 44 seats as against the 206 it won in 2009.
The exit poll results announced on May 19, a majority of which predicted a thumping victory for the ruling BJP, gave the party a reason to celebrate. The picture, however, seems dismal for the Congress.
The NDA had used the government’s achievements during its five-year tenure to appeal to voters, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi canvassing for seamless continuity in his policies.
Wins for the Congress could largely be limited to Punjab and Kerala (where its tally is likely to decrease despite party chief Rahul Gandhi contesting from Wayanad), while its campaign in states like Uttar Pradesh seem to have only helped the NDA by splitting Opposition votes. Gandhi on Wednesday urged his party cadres not to be discouraged by the exit poll results.
Allegations of electronic voting machine (EVM) tampering and malfunctions, clashes between party workers, and the subsequent war of words kept the poll tempers high this election season.
‘Namdar vs Chowkidar’ Poll Campaign
Nationalism, anti-terrorism, better amenities for the poor were a few issues on which the BJP pitched its poll campaign. The Congress, on the other side, focused on jobs, education, agrarian and unemployment crises and its NYAY scheme, which promises basic minimum income for the poorest of the population. It also trained guns at the BJP government over demonetisation and the Rafale deal.
Opposition’s EVM Complaint
With the verdict less than a day away, the Opposition has raised doubts over the voting and counting processes. On Tuesday, representatives from 22 opposition parties approached the EC and demanded verification of VVPAT slips of randomly selected polling stations before the counting of votes. The demand was turned down by the poll body.
They also demanded that if any discrepancy is found during VVPAT verification, 100% counting of paper slips of VVPATs of all polling stations of that particular Assembly segment should be done and compared with the EVM results. The EC, however, dismissed the petition.
The BJP and its allies have snubbed the opposition over the allegations. Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan described the opposition as “sore losers” and claimed their “desperation” over the VVPAT issue was an indication of their defeat in the Lok Sabha polls.
Trinamool Congress-ruled West Bengal remained in news during polls as widespread violence and clashes were reported from the state. While clashes between TMC and BJP workers affected the voting exercise, the situation turned grim after suspected workers of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) clashed with Trinamool Congress Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) supporters at College Street on May 14 during Amit Shah’s roadshow.
In the ensuing violence, a statue of noted reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was damaged. While Shah blamed TMC workers for the violence, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee pointed fingers at “BJP goons”.
In the run-up to the polls, Mamata Banerjee and Telegu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu have been at the vanguard of cobbling together a third front in order to keep the BJP at bay. While both chief ministers met leaders of opposition parties on several occasions, it remains to be seen which way the regional parties turn in the event of a smaller margin of victory for the BJP-led NDA.
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