Other than the voters, it is the EVMs that the political parties keep a close watch on. With the third phase of polling, in 117 constituencies across 13 States and two UTs on Tuesday last, Nirvachan Sadan and its team had to deal with complaints of faulty electronic voting machines from several polling booths in UP, Kerala, Bihar, Goa, Bihar etc. Same old story, some would say, but for the candidate and party it’s a do or die fight. There were reports of problems with VVPAT too. In Kerala specially, faulty EVMs interrupted polling in over 30 booths with CM Vijayan complaining that the EC officials have “not taken serious efforts to ensure accuracy.” In UP, the number was higher, but EC said it was only 3%. And these were repaired or replaced. However, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav tweeted whether there was something “sinister” behind the malfunctioning across India or was it voting for the BJP.” Oft heard and non-BJP parties would take their pot shots. But on a serious note the EC needs to consider this tweet: “DMs say poll officials untrained to operate EVMs. 350+ being replaced. This is criminal negligence for a polling exercise that costs Rs 50,000 crore.” Not too much for the biggest election exercise in the world? Pittance compared to scams too!
Karnataka Record Crowd
Karnataka polling has left pollsters and party leaders wondering. With ballot boxes sealed on Tuesday last finally, the first phase was on April 18, the State recorded its highest ever turnout of 68.62%. Obviously, signalling that stakes for the ruling Congress-Janata Dal (S) alliance and the BJP were high— vying for a larger piece of the cake for the 28 Lok Sabha seats. In 2014 elections the saffronites had won over half the seats and are confident of doing one better. Analysis shows the turnout saw 1.42% increase over last poll’s 67.20% and beat 1999 record turnout of 67.58%. Expectedly, high profile constituencies saw a higher turnout than others. These include Mandya with Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil in fray or in Tumakuru and Hassan, with former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and another grandson Prajwal contesting or Shivamogga, where sons of former CM Yeddyurappa and B Bangarappa were pitched. But the Capital city, Bengaluru was not enthusiastic with turnout less by around 2%. What conclusion can be drawn? The two warring sides shy from saying it goes in their favour, instead give credit to campaigning and better voter awareness. Perhaps, this time round the rivals prefer to wait and watch. Get your numbers right and then plan the ever so familiar cross-over.
Students’ suicides send shock waves in Telangana. Till Wednesday last 19 students had ended their lives for failing the Telangana State Board of Intermediate Examination. This has forced a concerned Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao to order re-verification of answer scripts of the 300,000-odd unsuccessful candidates ‘free of cost.’ Besides, officials have been asked to complete the process at the earliest to ensure that students didn’t lose an academic year. Apparently, students suspect major lapses as large-scale irregularities have been noticed in the mark sheets. Shockingly, many students, who had scored over 90% in the 1st exam have failed the 2nd year test and worse complaints of students getting zero or one or two marks in various subjects has put officials in a tizzy. Of the total 4,09,133 students appearing in 1st year exam only 2,47,407 passed and likewise in 2nd year of the 3,82,534 students, only 2,47,755 were cleared! The suicides have had the High Court step in too, directing the Board to re-evaluate answer scripts. Rather the system must be overhauled. Sooner the better, lest protests get louder and students suffer.
Delhi’s Big Fight
Speculation over Delhi’s all seven seats is over. The Capital is gearing for a high-pitched three-corner contest again. Both Congress and AAP’s hopes of fighting the mighty BJP together by combining their vote share have gone awry and each candidate has filed nominations. Congress, BJP have retained most of their heavyweights, but opted for new faces in two seats, the AAP has all fresh candidates. The BJP, winning all 7 seats in 2014 appears not to be super confident and has chosen ex-cricketer Gautam Gambhir and Punjabi singer Hans Raj Hans dethroning two sitting MPs. The Congress, which has former CM Sheila Dikshit heading the team of old timers Ajay Maken, JP Agarwal, has inducted boxer Vijendra Singh, seeking resurrection after its decimation in the LS and Assembly polls. The AAP, which is ruling the roost in Delhi Assembly, hopes the new team, Atishi, the face behind the reformation of government schools, Raghav Chadha, youngest spokesperson and a familiar face on TV debates, lawyer Balbir Singh Jakhar and convenor traders wing, Brijesh Goyal can make a decent beginning. But the big fight seems to be between the Congress and the BJP. The latter will find it tougher this time, as the formidable trading community is upset with the BJP and its two new faces are against household names. The Congress may not be wrong of springing surprises.
Better life takes precedence over the fight against corruption in Jharkhand. Political parties should pay heed to what a survey by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) reveals. Clearly, the voters want employment, better health services and law and order, rather than cleaning up the system. The survey which covered 7,000-odd respondents across 14 parliamentary constituencies shows that 47.08% said better employment opportunities were their top priority this election; 40.08% voters opted for better hospitals and primary healthcare centres as second priority and third came policing and law and order among 34.51% voters. Sadly, the Government’s performance on all three counts was rated as ‘below average!’ In the two categorised sections— rural and urban voters’ priorities, interestingly, while the former said jobs, the urbanite wanted law and order. Surprisingly, the issue of corruption had no takers among rural voters, while the issue was least prioritised –17% among urban voters. But what is most heartening is that over 2-3rd of voters said they were not influenced by the candidates’ gifts or cash. Their own opinion mattered most while casting their vote in that ballot box. Are politicians listening?
Bihar’s Student Outreach
The contest in Begusarai, Bihar is one which should surely hold keen interest for young voters. With the CPI putting up young fire brand from Jawaharlal Nehru University Kanhaiya Kumar, about 40 students and student leaders from the University are campaigning and holding fort there. To counter this, rival RJD candidate Tanveer Hassan has brought in students leaders from JNU, Jamial Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University and even Delhi University. They need to ensure a “back-up campaign’ where all Kanhaiya has been. Each side has its team in place in the seven Assembly constituencies, with aggressive door-to-door campaigning and distribution of pamphlets. The BJP’s Giriraj Singh and his team are not worried about this “import” of students and content with their party workers. Though they show confidence of not having any need to deploy JNUites or DU students to counter Kanhaiya, the main rival who they say is ‘over rated’, the young voter may just get them to change their mind. The run up to the finale is definitely worth a watch. —INFA