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Thursday, May 14, 2009

62% vote in Phase V as curtain comes down on polls

TIME TO VOTE: Wednesday, the last day of voting in the 2009 general elections, saw AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi casting their vote in Chennai and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee exercising their franchise in Kolkata.

NEW DELHI: Around 59-60 per cent of the 71.37 crore voters in the country exercised their franchise in the month-long five-phase elections to elect 543 members of the 15th Lok Sabha.

The period also witnessed Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Sikkim and Assembly by-elections in a few States.

In Phase V on Wednesday, about 62 per cent of the voters exercised their franchise in seven States and two Union Territories, covering 86 constituencies. The day saw Puducherry recording the highest voter turnout of 75 per cent. It was followed by West Bengal (70), Chandigarh (65), Punjab (60-65), Ladakh (Jammu & Kashmir) – 60-65, Baramulla (J&K) – 40-45, Himachal Pradesh (55), Tamil Nadu (60-62), Uttar Pradesh (52) and Uttarakhand (50-55).

During the five phases 37 persons including security personnel, poll staff and civilians lost their lives. While 23 were killed in violence, naxal attacks and police firing, the others died in accidents.

Chief Election Commissioner Navin B. Chawla, briefing journalists along with Election Commissioners S.Y. Quraishi and V.S. Sampath, said the Commission was “highly satisfied’ with the conduct of the polls, which were “by and large very peaceful.”

Mr. Chawla thanked his predecessor, N. Gopalaswami, who was involved in making the poll arrangements and who conducted Phase I on April 16.

Mr. Chawla said all arrangements were in place for counting of votes from 8 a.m. on May 16. It would be done simultaneously in 1,080 centres in the country. Over 60,000 staff members would be on duty.

Stray violence

Phase V witnessed stray incidents of violence and group clashes in some States including Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Punjab. At Pappanampatti in the Dindigul Lok Sabha constituency, a DMK functionary was killed near a booth allegedly due to previous enmity.

Group clashes were reported from the Chennai Central and Cuddalore constituencies, resulting in injuries to several persons.

At Baliguri near Kolkata, one person was killed in a clash between Trinamool Congress and CPI(M) supporters before polling began.

Among the host of personalities who exercised their franchise on Wednesday were Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK president M. Karunanidhi, AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat.

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