Low voter turnout, missing names in electoral rolls mar phase 4 of polling in Maharashtra

Tribal-dominated Nandurbar constituency recorded the highest turnout of 60.60% among the 11 constituencies that went to elections; the lowest voting percentage was recorded in Pune district

Updated - May 14, 2024 03:56 pm IST

Published - May 14, 2024 09:02 am IST - Pune

Inked: Pankaja Munde (left), BJP candidate from Beed seat , after casting her vote at Nathra Village, Parali, in Beed on Monday. ANI ANI

Inked: Pankaja Munde (left), BJP candidate from Beed seat , after casting her vote at Nathra Village, Parali, in Beed on Monday. ANI ANI | Photo Credit: ANI

Maharashtra continued to be jinxed by low voter turnout, with the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha polls having ended on Monday, which was marred by several complaints of missing voter names from electoral rolls in the Pune constituency.

Also Read: Lok Sabha Elections 2024 Live

The State recorded an overall voter turnout of 52.49% till 5 p.m. with tribal-dominated Nandurbar constituency recording the highest turnout of 60.60% among the 11 constituencies that went to elections. 

The lowest voting percentage was recorded in Pune district, which saw three crucial Lok Sabha seats — Pune, Shirur and Maval — go to polls.

Pune city Congress chief Arvind Shinde raised a complaint of bogus voting. When he reached the voting booth at the city’s Rasta Peth, he was stunned to find that someone had already cast the vote in his name.

Mr. Shinde immediately raised an objection by talking to the presiding officer and was later allowed to vote using the ‘tender vote’ process. A tender vote, detailed in Section 49P of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, is allowed to be cast on ballot paper when a voter realises that someone has already voted in the person’s name and officials are satisfied as to the voter’s identity.

Voting machines changed

In yet another glitch in the poll process, 49 voting machines in Pune had to be changed due to malfunctioning.

Meanwhile, in Jalgaon in north Maharashtra, the residents of two villages boycotted the election to express their ire against the district administration following the death of four persons, including two children, in a road accident last week.

About 2.28 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in this phase while a total of 298 candidates are in the fray in constituencies spread across Maharashtra’s arid Marathwada region, and in the western and northern parts of the State.

The shadow of the Maratha quota agitation loomed large over contests in Beed, Sambhajinagar and Jalna in the Marathwada region. The splits in the Nationalist Congress Party and the Shiv Sena are major factor in seats in western and northern Maharashtra like Shirur, Maval, Jalgaon and Raver.

One of most high-profile contests was the Beed Lok Sabha seat where the political future of the Munde clan is at stake here.

The ruling BJP-Mahayuti’s candidate, Pankaja Munde — daughter of the late BJP leader Gopinath Munde — who was given a ticket in lieu of her sister Pritam Munde, cast her vote in Beed.

Ms. Munde is pitted against the MVA’s Bajrang Sonawane of the Sharad Pawar-led NCP (SP). In 2019, Mr. Sonawane had given a creditable fight to Ms. Pritam Munde, whose winning margin had drastically reduced from that of 2014.

The rival candidates for the Pune seat — the BJP (Mahayuti)’s Murlidhar Mohol and the Congress’ (MVA) Ravindra Dhangekar — both expressed confidence of victories.

Prior to casting his vote, Mr. Mohol said: “I have focused on how I can reach out to the citizens of Pune rather than on my political rival. I have consciously refrained from making any ad hominem attacks against my rival candidates. The citizens of Pune are highly educated and aware, and they vote solely for development and other issues.”

Mr. Dhangekar, a former leader of Raj Thackeray’s MNS who joined the Congress, arrived to cast his vote on a two-wheeler, with his wife riding pillion.

Key fight in Ahmednagar

Another key contest in this phase is the Ahmednagar (now renamed Ahilyanagar) Lok Sabha seat where the BJP’s Sujay Vikhe-Patil (the Mahayuti’s candidate) squared off against the MVA’s Nilesh Lanke, from the Sharad Pawar-led NCP (SP).

Prior to casting his vote, Sujay’s father, senior BJP leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, said both Mahayuti candidates from the two Lok Sabha seats in Ahmednagar district — Sujay Vikhe (Ahmednagar)and Sadashiv Lokhande (the reserved Shirdi seat) — would win by handsome margins. “It is only on social media where it is said these contests would be close run things. The ground reality is completely different,” said Mr. Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who was once a tall Congress leader in the State before he joined the BJP.

Much more than a Lok Sabha fight, this contest typifies the epic, decades-old rivalry between the Vikhe-Patil and Pawar clans. In 2019, just before the Lok Sabha election, it was Mr. Sharad Pawar’s refusal to give up the Ahmednagar seat to its ally, the Congress, that had compelled Mr. Sujay Vikhe-Patil to seek a ticket from the BJP.

In Shirur, NCP (SP) leader Amol Kolhe, the incumbent MP, said there was no doubt he would be returned again to Parliament.

Dr. Kolhe is pitted against the former MP of Shirur, businessman Shivajirao-Adhalrao Patil, who is the candidate of the Ajit Pawar-led NCP faction and the Mahayuti.

As a political novice in 2019, Dr. Kolhe — an actor who achieved local celebrity status with his portrayals of 17th century Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji and his son, Sambhaji, in two wildly popular Marathi serials — had emerged as a ‘giant killer’ in Shirur by trouncing Mr. Adhalrao-Patil, who was then with the undivided Shiv Sena.

Speaking to reporters before casting his vote, Dr. Kolhe said: ““Ajit Pawar will not be voting in Shirur, but the self-respecting public of this constituency will be voting and deciding the outcome of this contest. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that I will be sent again to Parliament.”

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