Representational image of voters queuing up to cast their votes | PTI
Representational image of voters queuing up to cast their votes | PTI
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“April leg of voting ends”, “Clashes in Bengal as 80 mn vote in Phase 4”,  announces Hindustan Times in lead reports. “Bengal sees some clashes”, agrees The Times of India’s headline, “but tops Phase 4…”  By the way, Bollywood stars and business leaders adorn TOI’s masthead with their inked in fingers.

“Voting ends for 70 % seats”, adds The Economic Times, “but BJP’s big fight has just begun”.  For The Hindu, “Violence mars voting in Bengal…but turnout up in fourth phase”.

The Indian Express plays politics in its lead, “40 of your MLAs are in touch with me, will desert on May 23: PM to Mamata”. It says Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien angrily told “Expiry Babu” in a tweet, that “nobody will go with you…Are you election campaigning or horse trading!” TMC said it “would complain the Election Commission,” Express adds.

The reports are all about numbers: while HT, TOI, ET and Express claim a 64 per cent voter turnout for 72 seats across nine states, The Hindu insists it’s 71 seats. And even as HT, TOI say Bengal had the highest turnout at over 76 per cent, Hindu and ET highlight that this is lower than voting in 2014 — 83 per cent — “but this could go up later”, adds ET, conscientiously.

Cong complaints to EC on Modi

Another poll-related report concerns Congress’s moving the Supreme Court on Election Commission’s inaction on complaints against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah on poll violations.

While Hindu (“Election Commission ignored PM’s hate speeches: Congress”) and HT in “Poll body not acting against Modi, Shah…” focus on details of Congress’s complaints — numbering 40 (Hindu) — and that the SC will hear the case on Tuesday, the Times turns the story on its head.

“EC to consider poll code plaints against PM today,” says its headline. It claims it “first reported” on 26 April that a “full commission” would consider the complaints — “nearly three to four weeks after the incidents took place”. A box graphic contrasts this with ECs faster reaction in complaints against Azam Khan (1 day) and Mayawati (8 days). TOI adds that 11 complaints against Congress president Rahul Gandhi are also up for discussion.

Express says the “full Commission has not had a single deliberation” in this period on Modi’s alleged violations, although it has received “4 more complaints” by Congress and “one” by Communist Part of India (Marxist) in its exclusive, “Full EC hasn’t discussed any PM complaint since April 5”.

An interesting poll sidelight appears on page 1: In “Sacked BSF jawan to face Modi in Varanasi”, Hindu announces that Tej Bahadur Yadav (Samajwadi Party), who was dismissed from service in 2017 for a video in which he complained about the quality of food, will challenge Modi. TOI also highlights his candidature.

Terror related reports

Hindu has the National Investigation Agency’s arrest of “youth planning suicide attack in Kerala”. Riyas A. was arrested in connection with the “ISIS Kasargod 2016” case — the NIA claimed he “followed videos and speeches” of Zahran Hashmi, mastermind of the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka.

TOI says IS chief Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi “sprung a surprise” in an 18-minute Monday video by mentioning the Sri Lankan attacks (“Baghdadi appears in IS video… hails Lanka blasts”).

HT claims “Masood Azhar likely to get a global terror tag this week” as “China is expected to lift its hold on blacklisting” the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief.

And Express reports that Pakistan says it “will bring over 30,000 madrasas under Govt control” by including them in “the mainstream education system”.

Opinion

The Times of India in its opinion piece mentions that elections conducted in the 21st century are “in need of more technology, not less”. It mentions that 21 of the opposition parties have asked for rechecking “50 per cent of VVPAT slips” which is “akin to returning to counting of paper ballots”.  TOI writes that “retro can be chic in fashion” but moving back to old technology is not desirable. It adds that “even if Election Commission maintains that snags in EVM-VVPATs are miniscule in percentage” efforts to “improve their efficiency should continue”.

ET in “Go for Early Polls in J&K assembly” welcomes the EC’s independent observers “go-ahead”  to assembly elections  in J&K under President’s Rule since June 2018. Elections ought to be held as soon as polling ends in the Lok Sabha elections, writes ET as any further deferment by mainstream parties “is likely to be perceived as yet another sign of disdain for local opinion’’.  Parties sought postponement of elections to see who would form the government at the Centre, and the alliances that could be formed thereafter. However, BJP is unlikely to seek support within J&K after its call for a review of Articles 370 and 35A, observes ET.

Prime Time

Voting in the fourth phase, Monday, saw TV coverage alternate between footage of happy Bollywood stars and leading business families like the Ambanis, flashing their index fingers as a mark of their vote in Mumbai, and scenes of poll violence from West Bengal, in particular Babul Supriyo’s constituency of Asansol.

After Republic TV Sunday, it was the turn of Zee News to discuss whether there was another “Modi-wave”. Anchor Sudhir Chaudhary explained that a low voter turnout ín phase 4 indicated that people didn’t want to change the incumbent government.

India Today: Who was responsible for the violence in Bengal, TMC or BJP, anchor Rajdeep Sardesai asked BJP’s Babul Supriyo. Supriyo alleged that Trinamool “goons” had the support of the administration and Bengal’s police force. “We will approach the Election Commission and request for re-polling,” he vowed.

Aaj Tak:  Congress’s Supreme Court move against the EC’s  inaction on its complaints against PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, saw anchor Anjana Om Kashyap ask why political leaders ignored “real issues” for such complaints.

BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said, “…as Congress knows they are going to lose elections they are now targeting EVMs and Modi ji. They are preparing the ground work for losing.”

Congress leader Sushmita Dev countered: “Why is Election Commission not taking action against Amit Shah or Narendra Modi. This is not fair, right?”

Samajwadi Party’s Anurag Bhadauria also attacked BJP: “If they really cared about the Army, why is Narendra Modi contesting against a jawan from Varanasi?”

Janata Dal (United) spokesperson Ajay Alok wondered if Congress was sure the SC’s judgment would be in its favour: “Is Supreme Court in its pocket?” he asked.

TMC supporter Manojit Mandal was scornful: “BJPs balloon of nationalism has burst. In 21st century Indian democracy a BJP leader is saying that Hemant Karkare died due to her curse, this is not anti-national, this is anti-humanity.”

Times Now: A tweet by Congress’s social media specialist Divya Spandana with a morphed image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Germany’s Adolf Hitler, received outraged responses on anchor Navika Kumar’s ‘The Newshour’.

“She is learning her lessons from Rahul Gandhi who lies then apologises to the apex court. It shows she has no respect for the democracy of the country but has respect for the Gandhi parivar,” said BJP’s Gaurav Bhatia.

Political analyst and Congress sympathiser Tehseen Poonawalla thought otherwise: “This is showing the symbolism between Hitler and Modi ji. Both of them led their country to economic destruction.”

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