Record voting in Varanasi for the epic Lok Sabha battle

People in Varanasi came out in record high numbers to vote in one of the most bitterly fought electoral battle in which BJP leader Narendra Modi is pitted against AAP`s Arvind Kejriwal and Congress` Ajay Rai, with the day throwing up fresh controversies.

Varanasi: People in Varanasi on Monday came out in record high numbers to vote in one of the most bitterly fought electoral battle in which BJP leader Narendra Modi is pitted against AAP`s Arvind Kejriwal and Congress` Ajay Rai, with the day throwing up fresh controversies.

The temple town witnessed a record 56 per cent with people queuing up for hours outside polling booth in scorching heat. The 2009 Lok Sabha polls had witnessed about 43 per cent polling.

Rai was booked for alleged violation of election laws and breach of poll code of conduct for wearing the party election symbol to polling booth, after Election Commission ordered an enquiry into the matter.

While Modi too stoked a row releasing a video message on polling day urging voters in Varanasi to vote for BJP.

The polling, held amid massive security arrangements, was largely peaceful and no major incident of violence or booth capturing was reported. Police had to resort to mild use of force at some booths after people complained about names being missing from the voters` list.

Both urban and rural areas recorded high voting. Members of the minority community were seen coming out in large numbers to vote.

Election authorities said that the final turnout figure may change a bit, as the voters, who were inside the booths at 6 PM deadline, were allowed to cast their votes.

According to Election authorities, highest turnout of 59 per cent was recorded in Sevapuri assembly constituency while another rural constituency saw 56 per cent polling.

Among urban areas, Varanasi South assembly segment saw 58 per cent polling. In upmarket Cantonment area, the polling was lower at 54 per cent as also in Varanasi North Assembly constituency at 53 per cent till 6 PM.

In the most high-profile fight of the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Varanasi saw long queues in areas including Nadesar, Ram Nagar, Beniabagh and Benaras Hindu University campus since 7 AM when voting began.

AAP complained about alleged attempts of booth capturing in some areas.

Muslim dominated localities within the city as well as in the outskirts also witnessed high voter turnout.

Earlier in the day, Congress nominee Rai landed in trouble as police registered an FIR against him following directive from the Election Commission for allegedly violating the election code of conduct by wearing the party poll symbol on his kurta while going to cast vote.

Senior police officials said the FIR against Rai has been lodged at the Sigra police station and section 126 and 130 of Representation of Peoples Act and section 171 (H) of IPC relating to poll code of conduct.

Defending his action, Rai said he did not wear the badge intentionally and the election officials at the booth should have informed him about the violation. The booth at Ramakant Nagar where Rai cast his vote reported 50 per cent polling till 3 PM.

Early voters included Kashi King Anant Narayan Singh while sitting MP Murli Manohar Joshi also cast his vote.

Joshi`s remarks about Rai flashing the election symbol being a "small thing" which should not be given much importance by BJP raised eyebrows as a number of party leaders had earlier demanded action against Rai.

On Modi wave, Joshi said that it was a wave for change in support of BJP while PM nominee was leading it.

Returning Officer Pranjal Yadav said no untoward incident has been reported from any area and voting has been largely peaceful.

Snag in electronic voting machine was reported in some booths early in the morning but they were replaced immediately by the election officials.

The authorities had deployed around 45,000 security personnel to ensure free and fair polls in the city.

Over 1,200 booths had been put under surveillance through CCTV cameras and videography had been arranged for remaining close to 300 booths.

Top police officers of Uttar Pradesh have come down to the city to assess the security situation and make foolproof arrangements.

The EC had set up nearly 1,600 booths in the Lok Sabha constituency which has 16 lakh voters.

Yadav and the Special Election Observer visited a number of booths to ensure free and fair polls.

An official said on complaint of BJP, an AAP worker was detained in Shivpuri area. Speaking to reporters, Kejriwal declared that his is a direct fight with Modi and said Congress` Rai is not a challenger.

Rai, however, dismissed these claims and said the voters of Varanasi will elect him as he is the only "son of the soil" in the contest.

"How is it a triangular contest? Ajay Rai is nowhere. It is a direct contest with Narendra Modi ji. The situation has been changing in the last three days. Everyone is saying Narendra Modi ji will lose," Kejriwal said.

Kejriwal left Varanasi later in the evening and said he would be back after two days.