Sonia Gandhi, Delhi CM Kejriwal vote for each other’s candidates

Published May 26, 2024
A political worker instructs other voters about their party symbol on a dummy Electronic Voting Machine outside a polling station in Haryana state on Saturday.—AFP
A political worker instructs other voters about their party symbol on a dummy Electronic Voting Machine outside a polling station in Haryana state on Saturday.—AFP

NEW DELHI: India’s longest-ever elections cleared the penultimate phase of polling on Saturday involving 58 seats, and pictures of erstwhile rivals — Sonia Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal — may have captured the essence of the opposition’s new resolve with both sides voting for each other’s candidates.

Of Delhi’s seven seats shared by both, three were contested by the Congress and four by the Aam Aadmi Party. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had swept all seven in 2014 and 2019.

The other states in the fray in the sixth phase were Bihar (8 seats), Haryana (all 10 constituencies), India-held Jammu and Kashmir (1), Jharkhand (4), Odisha (6), Uttar Pradesh (14), and West Bengal (8). In the last phase on June 1, the contest would shift to 57 more seats mainly in the battleground states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.

Both sides are confident of victory with Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring after the fifth phase on May 20 — with just 429 of the 545 seats accounted for until then — that the BJP had already defeated the opposition. His Home Minister Amit Shah claimed clinching 310 seats after the fifth phase, seven more than the BJP’s tally in 2019.

Analysts called it a tall claim, and Congress party’s Priyanka Gandhi said the ruling party was oblivious of the strong undercurrent against the Modi government. The undercurrent has been cited as the reason for Modi stepping up his rhetoric targeting Muslims and Shah focusing his ire on Pakistan.

Sixth phase of India’s election over as 53.73pc voter turnout recorded in Delhi

Kejriwal, who is out on bail until June 1, said the INDIA bloc of opposition parties would win more than 300 seats, and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said there was an undercurrent in favour of the bloc.

In Maharajganj, in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Modi said the opposition could not tolerate the fact that people were supporting him. “During the first phase poll, the opposition felt dejected (passt) and following subsequent rejections, it was decimated (dhwast) by fourth phases and now after the conclusion of fifth phase, they are completely defeated and destroyed (paraasth).”

He also claimed his government’s clean record, targeting the opposition for alleged corruption, and for dynastic politics. He said he had neither inheritance nor heirs, and that all people were his heirs. “They are all communal, casteist and dynastic…,” he said.

In the capital’s New Delhi constituency, Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi voted where the AAP candidate faces Bansuri Swaraj, the daughter of late BJP leader Sushma Swaraj. In the Jama Masjid area, Arvind Kejriwal and his family voted for the Congress party J.P. Agarwal.

Former JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, fighting as a Congress candidate in northeast Delhi, the venue that was heavily polarised in an anti-Muslim campaign in 2020.

A voter turnout of 53.73 per cent was recorded till 5pm in Delhi. A total of 15.2 million voters — 8.2m males, 6.9m females and 1,228 of the third gender category — were eligible to cast their votes at more than 13,000 polling booths across the seven constituencies in Delhi.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2024

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