• Tuesday, June 18, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

India votes in penultimate phase of elections amid heatwave

Women queue up to cast their ballots at a polling station in village Tigaon on the outskirts of Faridabad (near Delhi) on May 25. (Photo: Getty Images)

By: Vivek Mishra

India proceeded to the penultimate phase of its general election on Saturday, with over 111 million people across 58 constituencies in eight states and federal territories eligible to vote.

Despite sweltering conditions in New Delhi, voters turned out in force to participate in this pivotal stage of the election.

Narendra Modi urged citizens to cast their votes in large numbers, while the Election Commission implemented measures to aid voters in coping with the heat. The electoral process commenced on April 19 and is set to conclude on June 1, with the counting of votes scheduled for June 4.

India’s extensive election encountered the challenge of a heatwave on Saturday, as voters in New Delhi grappled with soaring temperatures.

A voter turnout of 25.76 per cent was recorded within the first four hours of polling. By comparison, during the same phase of the 2019 elections, the turnout stood at approximately 63 per cent.

“There is a concern, but we hope that people will overcome the fear of the heatwave and come out to vote,” stated Delhi’s chief electoral officer P Krishnamurthy to Reuters.

The Election Commission deployed paramedics equipped with medications and oral rehydration salts at polling stations in Delhi. These stations were furnished with mist machines, shaded waiting areas, and cold water dispensers for the convenience of voters.

In Haryana, residents living near polling booths provided assistance to voters in coping with the heat by distributing complimentary cold drinks, dry fruits, and milk.

Among the early voters in Delhi were Rahul Gandhi, leader of the main opposition Congress party, along with his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Vadra.

“We are putting aside all our grievances and exercising our right to vote for our constitution and democracy,” remarked Vadra to reporters.

Opposition leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was recently granted bail following nearly two months of pre-trial detention in a corruption case, also cast his vote in the capital.

When questioned by Reuters, voters highlighted price rise and unemployment as significant concerns.

“The government boasts about rapid economic growth, but the reality on the ground is starkly different,” said Fazal, a 46-year-old voter from Delhi employed at a multinational corporation, stating that he also voted to “safeguard democracy”.

Ashok Ghana, a plumber from Odisha, stated that he voted for the BJP, citing “price rise and the scarcity of jobs” as his reasons for concern.

Property dealer Praveen Chauhan, 43, in Delhi, asserted, “My primary concerns centre on access to clean water, electricity, quality healthcare, and education,” adding that the Delhi government led by Kejriwal “has addressed these issues for us thus far”.

While the heatwave posed a challenge in Delhi, attention was also directed towards an approaching cyclone expected to make landfall on Sunday in eastern Odisha and West Bengal, which were also conducting elections on Saturday.

(Reuters)

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