Touted as ground zero of the 2014 general election, the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency saw an impressive 55.34 per cent voter turnout on Monday, surpassing the record of 2009 in which it was 42 per cent.
Supporters of the two prominent candidates — the BJP’s Narendra Modi and the AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal — exuded confidence about the victory of their leaders, even as the Congress’ Ajay Rai drew EC ire for wearing a badge of his party symbol on his kurta while voting at a booth in the city.
The five-time MLA was booked under Sections 126 and 130 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 after the Election Commission directed Returning Officer Pranjal Yadav to file an FIR in the matter. Special Observer Praveen Kumar said a report was sent to the Chief Election Commissioner after CCTV footage of the booth was examined by the district administration.
Mr. Rai, however, said he had the right to wear the symbol as a candidate. “I wear the symbol every day, when I step out of the house. I have my symbol on my clothes,” he told reporters.
During voting, the mood in the temple town was overall relaxed and peaceful. Long queues could be seen outside almost every polling station. The obscure location of some of the booths, amid congested lanes, did not dissuade voters who maintained a good rush especially in the second half of the day.
Much of the media focus was, however, on Muslim-dominated areas. The minority vote — about three lakh of the 16-lakh electorate — is being considered critical for the non-BJP parties.
Based on interactions The Hindu had with people of the community, Mr. Kejriwal emerged as their favourite. “We did our job. The rest is up to God,” said Aiyaz Ansari, a weaver at Madanpur.
As the 6 p.m. deadline neared, one could sense a bustle in the minority-dominated areas as people gathered around tea-shops to discuss the state of affairs.
Voting was smooth but some booths in rural areas witnessed minor protests over alleged deletion of voters’ names from the list.