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regular-article-logo Friday, 21 June 2024

Lok Sabha election Phase VI: Will farmers’, wrestlers’ protests, Agniveer and Kejriwal hurt BJP?

Can Congress gain from discontent in tiny Haryana is one of the big questions as voting begins for Phase VI of the Lok Sabha election

Our Bureau Published 25.05.24, 06:50 AM
Cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni after casting his vote at a polling booth during the sixth phase of Lok Sabha elections, in Ranchi, Saturday, May 25, 2024.

Cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni after casting his vote at a polling booth during the sixth phase of Lok Sabha elections, in Ranchi, Saturday, May 25, 2024. PTI

  • A voter turnout of 57.7% has been recorded across 58 constituencies in six states and a Union Territory till 5 pm, reports NDTV
  • The overall voter turnout recorded at 49 per cent till 3 pm
  • The overall voter turnout at 1pm was recorded at 39.13 per cent
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  • A voter turnout of 25.76 per cent was recorded till 11 am in 58 constituencies in six states and two Union territories where polling is underway in the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha elections. West Bengal recorded the highest voter turnout in the first four hours of polling at 36.88 per cent while Odisha recorded the lowest at 21.30 per cent, according to the Election Commission. Jharkhand recorded a voter turnout of 27.80 per cent, Uttar Pradesh 27.06 per cent, Bihar 23.67 per cent, Jammu and Kashmir 23.11 per cent, Haryana 22.09 per cent and Delhi 21.69 per cent, the EC data showed.
  • J&K: PDP president Mehbooba Mufti staged a protest outside a police station in Jammu and Kashmir's Anantnag district, where polling is underway in the sixth phase of Lok Sabha elections, against alleged detention of her party workers and polling agents. She also claimed that outgoing calls on her mobile number have been suspended.
  • Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Saturday cast his vote along with wife Sunita Kejriwal and other family members at a polling station in the Civil Lines area under the Chandni Chowk Lok Sabha constituency. Talking to reporters after casting the ballot, Kejriwal asserted people are voting in large numbers against "dictatorship, price rise and unemployment". He appealed to them that they should reach polling booths despite intense summer heat to vote against these issues.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and wife Sunita Kejriwal show their fingers marked with indelible ink after casting vote at a polling station, during the sixth phase of Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi, Saturday, May 25, 2024.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and wife Sunita Kejriwal show their fingers marked with indelible ink after casting vote at a polling station, during the sixth phase of Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi, Saturday, May 25, 2024. PTI

  • A voter turnout of 10.82 per cent was recorded till 9 am on Saturday in 58 constituencies in six states and two Union territories where polling is underway in the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha elections. West Bengal recorded the highest voter turnout in the first two hours of polling at 16.54 per cent while Odisha recorded the lowest at 7.43 per cent, according to the Election Commission (EC). Uttar Pradesh recorded a voter turnout of 12.33 per cent, Jharkhand 11.74 per cent, Bihar 9.66 per cent, Jammu and Kashmir 8.89 per cent, Delhi 8.94 per cent and Haryana 8.31 per cent, the EC data showed.
  • Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi cast their votes in New Delhi constituency in the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha elections
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi clicks a selfie with his mother Sonia Gandhi after casting his vote at a polling booth during the sixth phase of Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi, Saturday, May 25, 2024.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi clicks a selfie with his mother Sonia Gandhi after casting his vote at a polling booth during the sixth phase of Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi, Saturday, May 25, 2024. PTI

  • CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat alleged she had to wait for almost an hour to cast her vote as the battery of the EVM control unit at her polling booth "drained out".
  • Voters queue up at polling booths in Delhi; early morning voters included Union ministers S Jaishankar and Hardeep Singh Puri, Delhi Minister Atishi, outgoing East Delhi MP Gautam Gambhir, and candidates of different parties
  • PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday claimed that outgoing calls on her mobile number have been suspended without any explanation
  • President Droupadi Murmu casts her vote in New Delhi constituency in sixth phase of Lok Sabha polls
  • PM Modi urges people to vote in large numbers in 6th phase of Lok Sabha polls, says every vote counts
  • The Delhi Police has made robust security arrangements for the Lok Sabha election in the city on Saturday, deploying over 60,000 personnel on the ground to ensure peaceful, free and fair polling, officials said.

The sixth phase of the Lok Sabha election is a battle of perception, especially in the tiny north Indian state of Haryana, for the Congress.

Just like Maharashtra, the Assembly polls to Haryana are scheduled for later this year and the Lok Sabha polls are being seen as a semi-final.

Polling for the sixth phase is being held in 58 seats (Anantnag-Rajouri in Jammu and Kashmir was moved to this phase by the Election Commission) across seven states including 18 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 10 in Haryana, eight each in Bihar and West Bengal, seven in the National Capital Region of Delhi, six in Odisha and four in Jharkhand.

Why Haryana’s 10 Lok Sabha seats matter

The 10 seats from Haryana pale in significance when compared to the bigger states like Uttar Pradesh, but these 10 seats have contributed heavily to the apparent cloak of invincibility around Narendra Modi and the BJP in the last decade.

In 2014, caught in the onslaught of the Modi wave, the Congress had won only one seat, Rohtak, while the BJP got seven. Five years later, the BJP made it 10-0.

TTO Graphics

The Congress recovered some ground between May and October of 2019 in the Assembly election, winning 31 of the 90 seats in the Assembly election, came to a naught as the BJP stitched a post-poll alliance with the Jannayak Janta Party and went on to form the government for a second consecutive term.

The JJP snapped ties with the BJP in March this year and the BJP replaced Manohar Lal Khattar with Nayab Singh Saini, an OBC leader, as the chief minister.

Saini’s government in Haryana has been technically a minority one for nearly a fortnight now. After three Independent lawmakers withdrew their support, the BJP managed to woo three JJP legislators to keep the government running.

Impact of farmers’ protests

The BJP and the JJP have been feeling the heat of the agitating farmers who have held movements against the Narendra Modi government, specially on legal sanctity to the minimum support price, among other demands.

After the Modi and Khattar governments’ police cracked down on the protesters and a young man from Punjab was killed on February 22, farmers in many areas in both Haryana and Punjab have been chasing away the BJP-JJP nominees in the Lok Sabha election.

TTO Graphics

Banners and posters have come up in many villages boycotting leaders of both the state’s ruling parties who were till recently partners.

Will wrestlers’ protest, Agniveer be poll issues in Haryana?

The BJP is also worried about the possible repercussions of the treatment meted out to the female wrestlers protesting in the streets of Delhi, and also discontent over the Agniveer scheme among the youth.

Both of these issues have impacted the dominant Jat community, who account for 24 per cent of the voters. The BJP, which has fielded six candidates with roots in the Congress and other parties, is working for a counter-consolidation of other castes to sail through.

“We are confident of winning at least five seats if not more in Haryana,” said a district-level Congress leader from the Jat community.

The BJP has dismissed the protests by the farmers.

TTO Graphics

“There is no reason to believe the people will vote any differently from last time,” said a BJP local leader from Panipat. “People have seen how the state government has performed under the former chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar.”

The Achilles’ heel for the Haryana Congress, which has sniffed a chance of making a comeback in this part of the cow belt, is infighting in around four of the constituencies – Hisar, Gurgaon, Bhiwani-Mahendragarh and Faridabad.

Can Arvind Kejriwal pull it off?

Released from Tihar jail just days before the last three phases of polls, the first serving chief minister to run office from behind bars, Arvind Kejriwal, has been going hammer and tongs against the Modi-Amit Shah combine.

For the last decade, Delhi has turned full saffron in the Lok Sabha polls, though the state government, despite its limited powers, is run by AAP.

Kejriwal’s arrest came days after his AAP and the Congress – rivals in the other north Indian state of Punjab – inked a seat-sharing adjustment in the seven seats of the National Capital Region of Delhi, to bring the Opposition votes together like they have tried in the two big states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, where the INDI Alliance seems to have ironed out their differences.

AAP is contesting in four seats in Delhi, leaving the remaining three for foe-turned-friend Congress.

Just about 13 years ago, Kejriwal had stormed into public life by riding the anger against the Manmohan Singh-led Congress government, as a crusader against corruption.

This summer, released from prison, he has campaigned for the Congress and its alliance partners in Maharashtra. He has held aloft the hand of Congress nominee for the North East Delhi seat, Kanhaiya Kumar.

Soon after Kejriwal’s arrest in connection with the alleged liquor scam this March, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi commented: “A scared dictator wants to create a dead democracy.”

In his campaign, Kejriwal has trained his guns on Home Minister Amit Shah. The message in all the public meetings that Kejriwal has addressed has been that in this election Modi is seeking votes to make Shah the next prime minister.

Shah, as Union home minister, controls the central investigating agencies like the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation, both particularly active in the last five years across the country.

How much of his attempt to draw himself as a victim of conspiracy and a martyr cuts ice with the voters in the states of Haryana, Delhi and Punjab will be known on June 4.

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