Polling in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections 2019 began at seven O’clock Thursday. The 38-day marathon exercise of voting in 7-phases to elect 543 parliamentarians will conclude on May 19. And counting of votes will take place on May 23.
The first phase will see polling in 91 constituencies spread across 18 states and 2 Union Territories. While only a part of most states will go to polls in this phase, it is total in Andrha Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha.
In all, the fate of at least 1,285 candidates will be sealed in the EVM machines by the end Thursday. While all the polling stations were open by 7:00 AM and will be closes at 6:00 PM in most places, in areas sensitive to security matters the exercise will fold up from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM.
Voting is done through electronics voting machines (EVMs) with paper trail (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail). The introduction of EVMs has reduced the time required for counting, and got rid of election malpractices such as booth capturing and stuffing ballot papers in hordes into the ballot boxes. However, malfunctioning of EVMs due to technical snag, albeit in small percentages, remains a concern.
The second phase of election will take place on April 18.
Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh on Sunday held the first joint election rally of the Grand Alliance (Ghathbandan) of their parties in Uttar Pradesh. Addressing a massive crowd, Mayawati promised jobs in government and private sectors, and described the BJP and the Congress as mirror images of each other.
However, an important take away from the rally is Mayawati’s open call to Muslims not to vote Congress in the April-May Lok Sabha elections.
“I am warning, especially people of Muslim community, that Congress isn’t in a position to fight BJP in UP. Only Gathbandhan can fight BJP,” she appealed.
According to Model Code of Conduct (MCC), political parties are barred from asking votes in the name of religion. But the question arises why did Mayawati risk MCC charge?
Has she had some inkling about Muslims veering towards Congress? Apparently, several promises made in Congress’s manifesto, especially safeguarding Article 370 that accords special status to Jammu and Kashmir and reviewing Armed Forces Special Powers Act are aimed at pleasing Muslims in other states as well.
Similarly, Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s choice of Wayanad constituency in Kerala is seen as a strategic move to impress upon Muslims in other states. The Congress party is in alliance with Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in Kerala. Last week, IUML workers flooded Rahul Gandhi’s road show in huge numbers waving green flags on the day of him filing his nomination.
It remains to be seen if Muslims are ready to junk SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh and shift their allegiance back to the Congress again.