The second phase of India’s general elections was held last Thursday, April 18th. There were about 158 million people that were able to vote in this phase, and 78 million women specifically. Residents of eleven states and one union territory voted, and there were approximately 176,000 polling stations across 95 constituencies. The states and territories include Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Puducherry. Less than last week’s voter turnout of 69.4%, the turnout for this phase was 66%.
There are a few updates from this week’s voting phase and the candidates that will be representing the political parties in contention. Pragya Thakur was announced as a Parliamentary candidate by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), an individual who was accused of taking part in the bomb blast that affected Malegaon, Maharashtra in 2008. This incident led to six deaths and 101 injuries, and Thakur is currently out on bail due to her suspected involvement in this blast. Malegaon is a predominately Muslim city, and BJP’s support of Thakur despite her accused crime is reflective of the party’s growing Hindu nationalist ideals. BJP’s state unit in Maharashtra brought their support for this candidate on social media, tweeting, “These elections will now be a battle of religious ideologies. On one side is a man who has labelled Hindus as terrorists and on the other side is the true follower of Hindu religion, Sadhvi Pragya.”
The Congress Party has also announced three more candidates that they will be supporting for the elections from Uttar Pradesh: Yogesh Shukla from Allahabad, Chandresh Upadhyay from Domariyaganj, and Bhal Chand Yadav from Sant Kabir Nagar. Uttar Pradesh is one of the most influential states in the Lok Sabha elections, with a population of 200 million people. Due to its immense size, the voting process in the state is held through all seven stages of the general elections. The voter turnout in Uttar Pradesh during the second phase was approximately 38.9% at 1 p.m., and there were eight contested seats for this phase. Uttar Pradesh constitutes for eighty seats in the Lok Sabha in total, displaying the importance that this state has in the elections.
Tamil Nadu is another significant state in this election phase, and there were thirty-eight seats in contention. The most prominent national political parties, Congress and BJP, are not as influential in this state. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and All India Amma Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) are the two most dominant regional parties in Tamil Nadu. The two most prominent politicians of these parties, Jayaram Jayalalithaa and Muthuvel Karunanidhi, passed away in 2016 and 2018 respectively, which has created uncertainty regarding which party will lead the state.
The Election Commission has had a heavy presence in Tamil Nadu since the announcement of the election dates, as they seized almost $30 million in unaccounted cash alone. They also seized $1.6 million only a few days before the second phase of the elections, and consequently cancelled polls in a state district due to voter influence. This money was allegedly meant to be distributed to voters in exchange for biased voting. CNN reported, “The EC has seized millions of dollars in cash, gold and liquor in the last month during raids, inspections and vehicle checks at borders.” The fairness of the election process in Tamil Nadu has been questioned over the past several weeks, especially in light of these recent confiscations.
The next phase of the election will take place on April 23rd, and the states that will be voting include Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Dadar and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu. The last phase of the elections will take place on May 19th, and the results will be revealed on May 23rd.
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