It was a manic Monday in Varanasi. The voting day lived up to the hype created by the campaigning here. Vicky Nanjappa reports
The polling day in Varanasi lived up to all the hype that surrounded it during the campaign. In one of the most high profile contests this election, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Narendra Modi is up against Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal and Congress’s ‘son-of-the-soil’ Ajay Rai.
The first half of the day was mired in controversy. It began with BJP workers being driven out of the polling booths by Election Commission officials for wearing saffron.
Congress’ Ajay Rai hit headlines for sporting his party’s symbol, the hand, on his kurta as he stood in queue to cast his vote prompting the EC to file a first information report against him.
The BJP, which was looking to attack the Congress, was left red-faced as senior Murli Manohar Joshi contradicting his own party said, “Why is everyone making a big issue out of the Rai incident? Will you chop off every hand that goes to the polling booth? It is a small issue,” he said.
The BJP was left firefighting and defending Joshi, the party said, “Rai was too small a candidate.” However, a defiant Joshi said that he stood by what he said.
The Samajwadi Party too came under fire of the EC. A laptop with a polling agent of the party had a sticker of party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akilesh Yadav. The agent was shown the door and the party asked to explain.
The Aam Admi Party was in trouble too. Manish Sisodia was in Varanasi even though he was asked to leave. He explained that he was in the city to meet an ailing relative. Later, an AAP worker Rishi was arrested for allegedly trying to distribute money.
The silver lining was the voter turnout. In 2009, the polling percentage was around 42, but this time around polling 45.2 per cent was recorded till 3 pm. At end of the day, 55.3 per cent polling was recorded. The turnout in rural Varanasi was more impressive.
People started thronging polling booths at 6 am and stood in queues for hours. The polling was peaceful barring a few incidents of protests by the voters. Around 40 voters from the Pilkothi area found their names were missing from the list. Some complained that the voter slips had not been given as a result of which they had to spend more time at the booth searching for their names. Others protested the lack of shade and water at the booths.
Praveen Kumar, the special observer, told rediff.com, “Overall it was a good job. The challenge ahead of this poll was the biggest. There were incidents, but we have acted swiftly. What is more important is that we ensured that the polling went off smoothly.”
Varanasi turned into a fortress. In the first part of the day, there were more security personnel in the constituency than voters. 45,000 security personnel were deployed in 1,562 polling booths, which were heavily guarded and fitted with CCTVs. Around 11 booths had a videographer capturing the proceedings of the day.
The people of Varanasi have a lot to expect from this election. Modi on the face of it looks like the clear winner, but many favour Kejriwal.
The Congress and the SP do not appear to be big players although Ajay Rai claims the people will vote for the local and not the one who runs to Delhi.
The people are clear about what they want. They want development and most importantly better roads and power supply. Bumpy roads and unscheduled power cuts is what describes this constituency best.
They are impressed with Modi's Gujarat model and feel he could replicate the same here.
Image: Voters stand in queue to cast their ballot in Varanasi in the last phase of the Lok Sabha polls