Millions of Indians on Thursdayqueued up to vote in the secondphase of the mammoth and long-drawn parliamentary elections inwhich Prime Minister NarendraModi-led Bharatiya Janata Party ispitted against main opposition andan assortment of regional parties. Nearly 158 million voters wereeligible to exercise their franchisein the second phase which coveredpolling in 95 constituencies spreadacross 12 states and one federally-administered territory. The signifi-cance of this phase lies in whether the opposition can dent the BJP’stally in these in the last general elec-tions five years ago when the saffronparty had won 27 seats and its alliessix out of the 95.
With today’s polling, the exercisehas been completed in 34 per centof the total 543 parliamentaryconstituencies after the first phaseon April 11 had witnessed voting in91 constituencies. The final round of polling will beheld on May 19 and the resultsdeclared four days later.Stray violence was reported fromparts two of the three parliamentaryconstituencies in northern part ofWest Bengal which went to poll onThursday with the car of CPI(M)candidate Mohd Salim beingattacked in one instance when wason his way to cast vote in Raigunjconstituency.
Salim is pitted againstthe Congress's sitting lawmakerDeepa Dasmunsi. Before DeepaDasmunsi, her husband PriyaRanjan Dasmunsi had held the seatsince 1999.Violence also took place near abooth in Girpar in the sameconstituency, where voters blockedthe National Highway 34, claimingthat miscreants did not allow them tovote. In Chopra in Darjeelingconstituency, another group blockedthe highway claiming they were notallowed to vote. The police usedbatons and tear gas, and finally firedin the air to disperse the protesters.
The focus in the second phase ofpolling was on two key southernstates Tamil Nadu where 39 parlia-mentary seats were up for grab andnext-door neighbour Karnatakawhere voting was held in 14 of thetotal of 28 constituencies in the state.The significance of the second phaseof polling is that it covered the 95 seatsdominated by regional parties in theprevious parliamentary poll in 2014which together won 47 while the BJP-led NDA and the Congress-led UPAhad bagged 33 and 15 respectively.
The biggest chunk of seats wherevoting was held on Thursday is inTamil Nadu where the voters electedtheir candidates in all the 39constituencies in an election in thestate where there is a direct contestbetween alliances headed by twokey Dravidian parties whose poli-tics is based on castes low in the hier-archy.
While the state’s ruling AllIndia Anna Dravida MunnetraKazagham is leading the alliancethat includes the BJP, the rivalcombine is led by Dravida MunnetraKazagham and has the Congress init.
The DMK is widely favoured to winin Tamil Nadu this time after theAIADMK under the leadership of filmstar-turned-politician JairamJayalalithaa had swept 36 of the 39parliamentary seats five years ago.However, after the death ofJayalalithaa two years ago, theAIADMK suffered a split over theissue of who would succeed her asthe party chief and this could signif-icantly enhance the prospects of theDMK-led alliance this time.
Equally important in Tamil Naduwas the polling on Wednesday in by-election to 18 state assembly seatswhose outcome will decide the fateof the AIADMK government in thestate headed by Chief MinisterEdapadi K Palaniswami.