India voted for the highest number of Lok Sabha seats today (117) in the third of the seven-phase elections underway in the world’s largest democracy. With this, the fate of 302 MPs (out of a total of 543) across 13 states and two Union Territories has been decided, though results will be out only on May 23.
As voting drew to a close, the turnout ranged from a stellar 79 percent in West Bengal to a dismal (but expected) 13 percent in Jammu and Kashmir. Rounding off the top three were Assam and Tripura (78.3 percent each). Note that in some states, several constituencies will vote in the upcoming phases.
Overall voter turnout stood at 62.87 percent as of 6.00 pm, as per the website of the Election Commission of India. This was much lower than the 69 percent recorded in the first two phases.
Here’s a quick look at the day’s highlights.
Google marked the day with a special Google Doodle, encouraging people to go out and vote. The doodle itself leads to a set of instructions on how to vote.
Northern Karnataka, where voting was held in 14 constituencies, clocking 64 percent voter turnout compared with 61 percent in the southern part of the state where elections were held last year. Startup capital Bengaluru, however, clocked only a 47 percent turnout.
Major candidates in the fray today included Congress President Rahul Gandhi (Wayanad, Kerala), BJP leader Amit Shah (Gandhinagar, Gujarat), sitting Congress MP Shashi Tharoor (Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala), Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav (Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh), and former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti (Anantnag) of the PDP.
Star voters today included Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who visited his mother before casting his vote in Gandhinagar. His remark,
“The power of the voter ID is much more than IED of terrorism,” made headlines as he urged people to come out and exercise their franchise. Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh was the other star voter today, casting his vote at a polling booth in Dispur, Assam.
Veteran BJP leader and former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani (who is not contesting the elections this time) exercised his voting rights at a polling booth at Shahpur Hindi School, while Finance Minister Arun Jaitley cast his vote at another polling booth in the city.
According to media reports, special provisions were made for Kashmiri Pandits to exercise their franchise at the polling station for Anantnag parliamentary constituency. At the special polling booth, a voter even voiced their demands, urging the government to ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley.
As per a PTI report, a small snake was found inside a VVPAT machine in a booth at Mayyil Kandakkai in Kannur, triggering panic among officials and voters. It was soon removed, and voting continued. The state also reported several complaints about glitches in voting machines.
In related news, the Supreme Close exempted Rahul Gandhi from a personal appearance on April 30 with regards to a criminal contempt case. A notice was sent to the Congress President earlier over his “chowkidar chor hai” remark, after Gandhi mentioned PM Modi in reference to the Rafale judgement.
As the third phase unfolded, MTV too joined forces with a campaign encouraging India’s youth to cast their vote. Titled #VoteBeacauseYouCan, the campaign showcased young people from around the world who do not have the power to vote.
No doubt a conversation starter, MTV was somewhat eclipsed when it came to stirring up a frenzy on social media. Indian Twitter had a field day after Bollywood actor Sunny Deol announced his plans to join BJP today.
From "dhai kilo ka haath of BJP” to “Sunny Deol for groundwater minister,” there has been no dearth of memes across social media. Here's one until the next round: three down, four to go.
Sunny Deol: "I'VE JOINED BJP"
Sunny Deol: "GADAR MACHA DOONGA"
Crowd: *cheering gets louder*
Sunny Deol: "PUNJAB KE SAARE HANDPUMP UKHAAD DOONGA"
Sunny Deol: "aur electric motorized waley lagwa doonga"
(States where elections concluded today included Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep, and Puducherry.)