The world largest democracy staggering national election entered its fourth phase, celebrities were among the voters as Bollywood’s elite all posted selfies at polling stations to encourage the voters.
But the day was marred by multiple clashes that injured at least twenty people and led to security forces firing warning shots outside one polling station.
A junior minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, Babul Supriyo, said his car was attacked by supporters of a rival party outside a polling station in West Bengal’s Asansol district as they tried to stop him from entering.
In West Bengal’s Dubrajpur area, security forces fired warning shots in the air at a group of voters who turned violent when stopped from carrying mobile phones into polling stations.
A Muslim woman was hit by a crude bomb that exploded outside a polling station. The Nationalists and Far-right in India have been stoking the fires between Hindu’s and Muslims.
Constantly using the anti-Pakistani movement, which for Hindu’s symbolises anti-Islam, to push there own agendas and get ahead in the polls.
Elsewhere clashes broke out between rival groups and left injured seven people. The attackers targeting the minorities who were casting their vote.
Suresh Awasthi, the BJP leader, is seen vocally yelling at the police officer, whose name identity hasn’t been confirmed, that he was on his “hit list”.
In a video that has been circulated, the BJP leader can be heard threatening the circle officer, saying “will see you tomorrow, you are on my hit list”.
Indian politicians have played down the violence against Muslims and oppositions in the country. But the nationalist parties have built their campaigns on the back of that prejudice.
A leading Congress candidate, Moon Moon Sen said “A little bit of violence is expected, this is India after all …. You were too young to see when the Communists were in power. It is all over India, not just Bengal.”
The Election Commission said police filed a case of trespass against Supriyo, the minister, for forcing his way into a polling station without authorities’ permission.
Modi’s BJP is facing a major test as it looks to govern for another five years after winning a clear majority in the 2014 election. The party suffered a setback in December when the opposition Congress party wrested power from it in three key state elections — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh were among the nine states voting on Monday.
The remaining three phases of the election will be completed by May 19, and vote counting will begin May 23.
Even before Monday, more than half of India’s 543 parliamentary constituencies had already voted in the election, which began April 11.
On Monday, 64% of 128 million eligible voters cast ballots on electronic voting machines, the Election Commission said.
In the first three phases, voter turnout was around 66.4%, the same as in 2014, when Modi’s party came into power. This may not be good news for the BJP, which launched a campaign two years ago seeking to increase voter turnout in the 2019 election.
Under the leadership of political dynasty scion Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party, which had ruled the country for more than half a century after 1947 independence, has struggled to coalesce India’s many opposition parties into a coherent force that could go head-to-head with the BJP.
The opposition says the BJP’s emphasis on Hindu nationalism has aggravated religious tensions and violence against Muslims and other minorities in constitutionally secular India.
Hindu’s make up 80% of India’s population. But there is a large Muslim minority of around 300 million people. The rest of India is made up of smaller minorities of Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists.
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