62.37% Indian voters cast vote in Phase 1 of LS polls

The Asian Age With Agency Inputs  | Vineeta Pandey

India, All India

Tripura records highest 79.9%, Bihar 47.49%

Women show their identity cards and voting slips as they stand in a queue to cast their vote during the first round of polling of India's national election in Bishnupur constituency on the outskirts of Imphal, Manipur, India, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP)

New Delhi: India commenced its seven-phase Lok Sabha elections 2024 on Friday amidst a robust turnout of around 62.37 per cent from 102 seats across 21 states and union territories. Despite the weather challenges, voters turned out in significant numbers, with Tripura recording the highest voter turnout of 80.17 per cent, while Bihar registered the lowest at 47.49 per cent.

According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), polling for 10 states/UTs to elect the 18th Lok Sabha, along with State Legislative Assemblies of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, has concluded in phase one. Notably, 56 villages in Bastar and the Shompen tribe of Great Nicobar exercised their franchise for the first time.

However, the polling process was marred by incidents of violence and intimidation, particularly in West Bengal and Manipur. Clashes erupted between Trinamul Congress and BJP workers in Cooch Behar.

Union minister for Home Affairs (MoS) Nishith Pramanik of BJP is pitted against TMC sitting MLA Jagadish Chandra Basunia in Cooch Behar. Three constituencies — Cooch Behar, Alipuduar, and Jalpaiguri — went to poll in the first phase in West Bengal where the total polling percentage in this phase was 77.57.

Manipur witnessed vandalism, armed threats, and incidents of proxy voting whereas voter turnout of 69.13 per cent was reported for the two seats that went to poll. In Nagaland, six districts reported zero voting due to an election boycott call. The state recorded a turnout of 56.91 per cent.

In Manipur, armed men also fired several rounds in the air near a polling booth in Thamnapokpi under Moirang assembly constituency in Bishnupur district, prompting voters to flee, police said, adding additional security personnel were rushed to the spot to contain the situation. Unidentified armed men also intimidated election agents of a particular political party at different places and asked them to leave the polling stations, they said. At Uripok and Iroishemba too in Imphal West district, armed men asked agents of a party to leave the premises of polling stations, an official said.

Six districts of Nagaland reported zero voter turnout following an election boycott call by the Eastern Nagaland People's Front (ENPO) demanding a separate state. The state's Chief Election Officer, Vayasan R., has issued a show-cause notice to the ENPO for disrupting the electoral process and denounced its attempt to exert undue influence. Sources said while the situation is peaceful, there is no movement of any person or vehicles except that of the district administration and other emergency services.

The ENPO on March 5 had announced an "indefinite total shutdown all over Eastern Nagaland jurisdiction with effect from 6pm on April 18". The organisation has been demanding a separate state since 2010, claiming that the six districts have been neglected for years.

Amidst the unrest, heartwarming stories emerged from different corners of the country. In Arunachal Pradesh’s Malogam polling station, a lone female voter cast her vote, while the Shompen tribe of Great Nicobar participated in their first-ever General Elections.

The 44-year-old Sokela Tayang cast her vote around 1 pm, a district official said. For the single voter, a team of polling officials trekked nearly 40 km on foot through treacherous terrain and set up a voting booth in the remote polling station.

Additionally, residents of Dhadkahi, known as the "silent village" in Jammu and Kashmir’s Doda district, known for its large deaf-and-dumb population, voted, hoping for better amenities.

Despite the challenges, the Election Commission ensured voter safety by providing shelter, water, and medical assistance at polling booths.

“Heartening stories of grit, resolve and determination to have the coveted indelible ink emblazoned on their finger-tips are emerging. In Kurung Kumey District of Arunachal Pradesh an elderly voter opted to go cast her vote at the polling station despite having the option to vote from home. Elsewhere, a first-time voter, Ms. Devaki, adorned in traditional attire, in Dindori, Madhya Pradesh, expressed her happiness by proudly striking a pose with her inked finger after casting her vote. Adding to the celebratory atmosphere, newly-married voters also proudly took to social media to post selfies with their ink-marked fingers,,” the ECI said.