|Congress candidate Ajay Rai, with the party badge pinned on his kurta, shows his inked finger in Varanasi on Monday. (PTI)
New Delhi, May 12: The country has clocked a record voter turnout of 66.38 per cent in this marathon general election, surpassing the earlier high of 64.17 per cent logged in 1984 after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
“The voting percentage this time has been an all-time high. It has surpassed the previous record of 64.17 per cent in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections,” the Election Commission director-general, Akshay Rout, said.
The voting percentage could still go up marginally as postal ballots have yet to be counted and the final figures for today’s ninth-phase polling compiled.
The BJP termed the record voter surge a wave in favour of the party, particularly its Prime Minister candidate Narendra Modi, and a mandate against Congress misrule. But the Election Commission credited the turnout to its efforts.
“The mandate this time would be against the Congress and in favour of a strong BJP-led NDA government under the leadership of Narendra Modi,” BJP spokesperson J.P. Nadda said.
The poll panel expressed satisfaction at the turnout, saying it had taken several measures over the years to increase voter awareness and clean up the electoral rolls.
“The EC has taken a number of measures to educate voters and make them aware (how important it is) to cast their vote. We are also thankful to the media for helping us in this effort,” Rout said.
The jump in the voting percentage was attributed to some 15 states and Union territories that saw an all-time high turnout. Among these was the largest heartland state of Uttar Pradesh, from where the BJP hopes to make the most gains to ride to power. After the final round of polling, Uttar Pradesh had logged a 58.63 per cent turnout.
Compared to the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, 32 of 35 states witnessed a higher turnout this time. Only three states —Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim — saw a marginal drop.
The enthusiasm among women voters was notable. In some eight states and Union territories, the ladies outnumbered the men. Some of these states were Bihar, Punjab, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.
The 2014 general election was possibly the most acrimoniously fought so far, with both the BJP and the Congress lodging complaints of poll code violation on the very last day.
A video message by Modi urging people to vote for a strong India was aired today by many news channels. The Congress alleged the BJP mascot had used the video clip to campaign on polling day, which was not allowed.
“How can the channels show Modi’s speech today in violation of the code of conduct? The Election Commission should take cognisance immediately,” Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken said.
“We have received a complaint and it is being examined,” deputy election commissioner Vinod Zutshi said.
On the flip side, an FIR was lodged against the Congress’s Varanasi candidate, Ajay Rai, for showing up at the polling booth with the party’s hand symbol pinned to his kurta. The poll panel said an FIR had been lodged against Rai for violation of election rules.
On April 30, an FIR was lodged against Modi for flashing the BJP’s lotus outside the Gandhinagar booth where he voted.