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Over 55% vote in phase 2
New Delhi, April 23 (IANS):
Published on 24 Apr. 2009 1:39 AM IST
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Violence in J’khand; Pawar,Paswan, Rahul, Sushma in fray More than 100 million people voted all over India in round two of one of the country’s most intensely fought parliamentary elections even as the Congress and its allies traded barbs over the leadership of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the Left remaining bitterly anti-Congress. An estimated 55 percent of the 194 million electorate - of the country’s total 714 million voters - exercised their franchise in 140 constituencies in 12 states, from Jammu and Kashmir in the north to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in the south. “There is an average 55 percent polling. It may increase,” Deputy Election Commissioner R. Balakrishnan told reporters here. The states which went to polls Thursday were Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. A total of 2,034 candidates were in the fray. Despite the searing heat, there were long queues at most of the 222,350 polling centres. Thursday’s balloting, the biggest of the five rounds, covers states that are important for all key contestants including the ruling Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and allies of both the Congress and BJP. The Election Commission and local authorities said the 10-hour exercise passed off mostly peacefully although Maoist guerrillas continued their rampage in Jharkhand. But unlike in the first round of polling April 16 when 19 people were killed, there were no fatalities this time. Some violence also took place in Assam, in whose Guwahati city Prime Minister Manmohan Singh voted and asserted that the Congress would certainly form the next government. “The Congress in Assam will win a thumping majority and there will be a Congress-led UPA government at the centre,” Manmohan Singh told reporters confidently, although most pundits believe that the result of the 2009 ballot would be more splintered than the one in 2004. While the prime minister got a vote of confidence from ally Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar made it clear that the UPA leadership would be decided only when the month-long election ends May 16. “The only name in our mind for the prime ministerial candidate is Manmohan Singh,” Steel Minister Paswan said ding that he was also speaking for Railway Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad. But Pawar, a politician with known links across the political spectrum, showed that he was on a different wavelength -- a stand that has irked the Congress no end. “Election and selection of the leader will be done collectively by the UPA,” Pawar said in reply to a question on whether Manmohan Singh would be the prime minister. Even amid the Congress-UPA differences, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat maintained that the Left would never support a Paswan said he wanted the Left to join the secular camp. “We want the Left to come with the secular parties.” Echoing him, Lalu Prasad expressed confidence that if the UPA fell short of a majority in the 545-member Lok Sabha, “we have kept open a window for the Left”. Pawar was more firm, saying no government could be formed without support from the Left, which won over 60 seats in 2004 and whose tally is expected to drop this time by about 20 seats. But, in a split verdict, 40-odd seats would matter a lot.

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