Extensive violence but also high turnout marked the fifth phase of polling for 51 constituencies across seven states in the Lok Sabha elections on Monday. The phase saw 62.56 per cent polling, according to the EC.
Violence was reported from West Bengal with Barrackpore and Bongaon seeing pitched violence between Trinamool party workers and others. Two polling booths in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian were set on fire this morning. A grenade attack was reported in Pulwama where 40 CRPF men were killed in February. 14 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 12 in Rajasthan, seven seats each in West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, five in Bihar and four in Jharkhand voted on Monday. Polling was held in Ladakh, Pulwama and Shopian districts in J&K. Top BJP and Congress leaders, including UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Union Minister Rajnath Singh, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, were among the key candidates.
Mockery and insult were the hallmark of election speeches. Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee declared that she did not return Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s calls to discuss Cyclone Fani, as she did not “want to share the dais with expiry-PM”. This was after Modi charged Banerjee with “playing politics” over cyclone relief. Banerjee’s conduct stood out in sharp contrast to Naveen Patnaik, also from the Opposition Biju Janata Dal in Odisha, which bore the brunt of the cyclone, as PM visited Odisha and did an aerial survey and spoke to Patnaik on the management of the aftermath of the cyclone. At a rally in Bengal’s Tamluk, Modi said, “I tried to talk to Mamata Didi before the cyclone hit, but such was her arrogance that she refused to talk to me."
In a Hindi tweet later he said: “I waited, expecting her to call me back. But she did not. Still, I called her again. I was worried about the people of Bengal, and wanted to speak to Mamata Didi. But Didi did not speak to me the second time either.” At a rally from Bengal's Bishnupur, Banerjee said she could not take the call as she was in Kharagpur to monitor the ground situation.
But she added, witheringly, “I don't want to share dais with expiry-PM as elections are on”.
Banerjee was incensed that the PM preferred to be in touch with Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi, rather than asking her for suggestions on managing the aftermath of the cyclone. This theme could repeat itself in Bengal as eight constituencies go to the polls on May 12.