More than 73 per cent of the electorate in Rajasthan voted on Saturday in a bipolar contest involving the Congress and the BJP to elect a new government, with polling passing off peacefully barring a few stray incidents of violence.
The tentative voter turnout was 73.92 per cent till the last report came in at 6 pm, an election commission official said.
Earlier, Chief Electoral Officer Praveen Gupta said the final voting figures will be issued once data is compiled.
“The polling percentage till 5 pm was 68.24 per cent. The highest turnout was in Jaisalmer district, followed by Hanumangarh and Dholpur districts,” Mr Gupta said at a press conference after the polling ended.
Polling at more than 51,000 polling booths in 199 assembly constituencies began at 7 am and ended at 6 pm, but officials said those already in queue at the polling booths were allowed to vote. The votes will be counted on December 3.
When asked about repolling at booths where incidents of clashes were reported, he said the decision would be taken after the report of the observers. Mr Gupta said there were no reports of the voting process getting halted at any place.
On the malfunction of EVMs at some booths, he said the number was less than the national average.
In the last assembly elections in 2018, the state recorded a voter turnout of 74.06 per cent. The Election Commission has set a target of at least 75 per cent turnout in each constituency this time.
Polling in the Karanpur Assembly constituency in Sriganganagar was postponed due to the death of the Congress candidate.
Two people — Shanti Lal, who was a polling agent of the BJP candidate from the Sumerpur constituency Joraram Kumawat, and 62-year-old voter Satyendra Arora — died of suspected cardiac arrest at polling booths in Pali and Udaipur districts, officials said.
There are more than 5.25 crore registered voters in 199 seats while 1,862 candidates are in the fray.
The Election Commission had made elaborate arrangements to ensure smooth polling with more than 1.70 lakh security personnel being deployed across the state.
In Sanwler village of Kaman in Deeg district, two people, including a policeman, were injured in a stone-pelting incident.
“Police fired 12 rounds in the air to disperse the crowd. Voting was disrupted for a few minutes due to the incident,” Deeg Superintendent of Police (SP) Brijesh Upadhyay said.
In Sikar’s Fatehpur, two groups clashed and a jawan was injured in the violence.
“Stone pelting occurred outside a polling booth. One jawan was injured in the stone pelting. No civilian was injured. Around five to seven people have been detained,” Fatehpur Deputy Superintendent of Police Ram Pratap said.
An altercation occurred between a polling agent and a person outside a polling booth in Dholpur’s Bari seat.
“Two vehicles were damaged in the ensuing violence. The polling was stopped for some time,” Dholpur Collector Anil Kumar Agarwal said.
In Uniara of Tonk district, 40-50 people tried to enter a polling booth, however, the situation was brought under control, Superintendent of Police Rajarshi Raj said.
The Congress is aiming to buck the trend of the ruling party being voted out every five years, while the BJP is eyeing a return in the state ahead of the Lok Sabha polls next year.
Several voters, including youngsters and the elderly, queued up at polling centres well before 7 am.
“I got ready by 6 am, called up my friends, and reached the polling booth so that we are the first ones to vote,” Himanshu Jaiyaswal, a college student, told PTI at a polling booth in Malviya Nagar here.
“This is the festival of democracy and all should participate in it,” Jai Singh, another voter, said.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Union ministers Gajendra Singh Gajendra Shekhawat and Kailash Chaudhary, former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, and former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot were among the first ones to cast their votes.
Ashok Gehlot and Gajendra Shekhawat voted in Jodhpur, Kailash Chaudhary in Balotra, Vasundhara Raje in Jhalawar, and Sachin Pilot in Jaipur.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Rajasthan ministers Shanti Dhariwal, Ashok Chandana, and Pramod Jain Bhaya cast their votes in Kota while state BJP president CP Joshi exercised his franchise in Chittorgarh and party MPs Diya Kumari and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore voted in Jaipur.
The leaders expressed confidence that their respective parties would get the mandate of the people.
There is no anti-incumbency against the Congress and the party will form the government in the state again, Ashok Gehlot said in Jodhpur.
“There seems to be an undercurrent. Looks like the (Congress) government will be repeated,” he said.
Talking to reporters in Jhalawar, Ashok Gehlot’s predecessor Raje retorted, “I agree with him. There is indeed an undercurrent but in the favour of the BJP. Lotus (BJP’s poll symbol) will bloom on December 3.” Asked who will be the CM if the BJP comes to power, Raje said the decision will be taken by the party.
Om Birla said by casting their votes, the people have expressed themselves.
The constant rise in the voting percentage since 1952 reflects the strength of our democracy and we all are proud of it, the Lok Sabha speaker told reporters.
In Jodhpur, Gajendra Shekhawat said, “The BJP is coming to power with a huge majority. This time people will vote keeping in mind crimes committed against women, paper leak incidents, and corruption during the five-year rule of the Congress.” Dhariwal, the urban development and housing minister, said he was confident of Congress retaining power in the state.
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