SAMBHAL (Uttar Pradesh): People queue to vote at a polling station during the third phase of the general election, on Tuesday.—Reuters
SAMBHAL (Uttar Pradesh): People queue to vote at a polling station during the third phase of the general election, on Tuesday.—Reuters

• Three Haryana MLAs ditch Modi govt to join Congress
• Police chase away Muslim voters from polling booths in BJP-ruled constituency
• X told to take down Congress leaders’ animated video over code violation

NEW DELHI: With the third phase of the elections ending on Tuesday, the fate of 52 per cent candidates for the 543-seat parliament stands sealed, and analysts were reading the turbulence at the stock exchanges as a sign of difficulties for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Another sign of trouble for the Bharatiya Janata Party came from Haryana where three independent state MLAs ditched the BJP government to join the Congress party. Hitherto the flow of big and small political defectors had been in the other direction — from opposition groups to the BJP.

There were reports of police chasing away Muslim voters from polling booths in a constituency in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh. Elsewhere names of some voters had allegedly disappeared from the voters’ list.

In the fray on Tuesday were 94 seats spread over 12 states, including all 26 seats in Gujarat where Mr Modi and his home minister cast their votes.

The day’s contests included five seats in Bihar, four in West Bengal, 11 in Maharashtra, seven in Chhatt­isgarh, 10 in Uttar Pradesh, 14 in Karnataka and nine in Madhya Pradesh, where Congress defector and BJP candidate Jyotiraditya Scindia was in the race. Of these states, Karnataka and West Bengal are ruled by the opposition. The fate of 285 seats is now sealed.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) ordered X, formerly Twitter, to take down an animated video posted by BJP Karnataka but avoided directly sending a notice to the BJP. The video features caricatures of Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge, advancing the party’s recent messaging that the Congress is diverting funds and resources away from lower caste Hindus towards Muslims.

As of Tuesday evening, the post had garnered over nine million views, and had not yet been taken down, reports said.

The Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee had on May 5 complained that the video violated the code of conduct, and Manoj Kumar Meena, the chief electoral officer of the state, subsequently ordered X to take the post down.

In a setback to the ruling BJP in Haryana amid the Lok Sabha election, three independent MLAs have withdrawn their support to the Nayab Singh Saini-led government in the state, reports said.

The three MLAs — Sombir Sangwan, Randhir Gollen and Dharampal Gonder — made the announcement at a press conference held in Rohtak in the presence of senior Congress leader and former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Haryana Congress chief Udai Bhan.

After their presser, Mr Hooda claimed that the Saini government had lost its majority. Their extension of support to the Congress, he claimed, proved that there is a wave for the party in the state and that “we are poised to perform well in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls”.

Mr Saini took over state reins two months ago in March after the BJP broke off its alliance with the Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janata Party and dissolved the government under chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar.

On the other hand, the Indian stock market has been experiencing strong bouts of volatility in recent sessions, leaving investors perplexed, reports said. Analysts have linked the fall to problems Mr Modi is facing in his third term bid.

The India VIX index, which measures volatility in the Indian stock market, has surged nearly 33pc in just four sessions in May so far, following a meagre 0.30pc rise in April and a significant 18pc fall in March.

On Tuesday, after opening higher, Indian stock market benchmarks, the Sensex and the Nifty 50 soon fell almost a per cent each on an all-round selloff. Both indices, however, pared losses and ended about half a percent lower each.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2024

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