22:11 Trump breaks silence amid abortion ban row:
US President Donald Trump has outlined his "strongly pro-life" views on abortion amid controversy over strict new laws passed in several states.
Trump said he was against abortion except in cases of rape, incest or a "serious health risk" to the mother.
His stance on what is a divisive election issue in the US emerged days after Alabama passed a law banning abortion in almost all cases.
Supporters of Alabama's abortion ban say they expect the law to be blocked in court, but hope that the appeals process will bring it before the US Supreme Court.
They want the highest court in the land - which now has a conservative majority - to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling making abortion a right across the US.
Sixteen other states are also seeking to impose new restrictions on abortion.
21:39 The total turn out in the mammoth elections this year settled at 66.39 per cent.
21:33 Over 900 posts taken down during LS polls:
Social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, removed a total of 909 posts during the Lok Sabha election, following directions from the Election Commission (EC).
Facebook alone took down 650 posts, followed by Twitter (220), ShareChat (31), YouTube (five) and WhatsApp (three), Director General (Communications) in the EC Dhirendra Ojha said on Sunday, after the seventh and final phase of polling was concluded.
Of the 650 posts taken down by Facebook, 482 were political messages posted during the "silence period".
The "silence period" starts 48 hours before the hour set for conclusion of polling in a particular phase. The seventh phase of polling came to a close at 6 pm on Sunday, so the "silence period" had begun at 6 pm on Friday for this phase.
As many as 73 social media posts were political advertisements in the "silence period", two were violative of the Model Code of Conduct, 43 were related to voter "misinformation", 28 were dubbed as those crossing the limits of decency, 11 were related to exit polls and 11 were hate speeches, Ojha said.
There were also 647 confirmed cases of paid news, of which the maximum of 342 were reported in the first phase itself, he added.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, 1,297 confirmed cases of paid news were reported, Ojha said.
21:01 What do the exit polls say about Kashmir:
For Jammu and Kashmir, the India Today Axis Survey predicts the National Conference winning 2-3 seats and the Congress with 0-1 seats.
The survey also predicts that Mehbooba Mufti's PDP will not win any seat. The BJP in J-K is predicted to win 2-3 seats.
The competition in the Srinagar was between the National Conference and the Peoples Conference, which is led by separatist-turned-politician, Sajad Lone, who was an ally of BJP in the last government of the state.
The fight in Jammu and Udhampur seat was mainly between the BJP and the Congress. To counter the BJP, National Conference and PDP supported Congress in Jammu.
20:33 Exit polls gossip, don't trust them: Mamata:
Dubbing exit polls as "gossip", West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee on Sunday said she doesn't trust such surveys, as the "game plan" is to use them for "manipulation" of EVMs.
Most exit polls forecast a majority for the ruling BJP-led NDA in Lok Sabha elections with varying numbers, as the seven-phase democratic exercise ended Sunday.
"I don't trust Exit Poll gossip. The game plan is to manipulate or replace thousands of EVMs through this gossip. I appeal to all Opposition parties to be united, strong and bold. We will fight this battle together," Banerjee said in a tweet.
In West Bengal, some of the exit polls suggested the TMC getting 24 seats, the BJP bagging 16, the Congress two seats and the Left Front drawing a blank.
Two exit polls telecast by Times Now gave the NDA 296 and 306 seats, while they projected 126 and 132 for the Congress-led UPA.
Nearly 61 per cent voters turned out to cast their vote on Sunday in the seventh and the final phase of the Lok Sabha election held in 59 constituencies across eight states and Union Territories.
20:31 Nearly Rs 3,500 crore worth cash, liquor, drugs seized during LS polls:
Cash, drugs, liquor and precious metals worth Rs 3449.12 crore were seized by enforcement agencies since the Lok Sabha polls were announced on March 10, the Election Commission said on Sunday.
The seizure is nearly three times the figures of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the figures show.
In 2014, the overall seizure was Rs 1,206 crore, Director General (Election Expenditure) in the EC Dilip Sharma told a press conference.
Between March 10 and May 19, Rs 839.03 crore in cash, liquor worth Rs 294.41 crore, drugs worth Rs 1270.37 crore, precious metals, including gold, worth Rs 986.76 crore and "freebies", including sarees, wrist watches, aimed at inducing voters worth Rs 58.56 crore were seized, he said.
The total comes to Rs 3449.12 crore.
20:28 Modi-Nitish-Paswan combine will storm Bihar:
The Congress's efforts to string together a mahagathbandhan in Bihar seemed to have failed as Bihar has once again given the mandate to the NDA alliance.
20:14 Kirron Kher may bag Chandigarh:
According to the India Today-Axis My India exit poll, it looks like actress-turned-politician Kirron Kher, who is contesting on a BJP ticket, will bag the Chandigarh seat.
19:53 Wayanad magic may work for Rahul in Kerala:
Exit poll data from Kerala suggests that the BJP's Sabarimala pitch has failed to woo voters. On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi's decision to contest from Wayanad may have won him the state, shows data from the Kerala exit poll.
Here are the numbers according to India Today-Axis My India Exit Poll:
Regional parties and others: 5
19:43 Time to switch off TV: Omar reacts to exit polls:
As most exit polls forecast a majority for the ruling BJP-led NDA in Lok Sabha polls, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah has reacted in quite a negative way.
He tweeted, "Every single exit poll cant be wrong! Time to switch off the TV, log out of social media & wait to see if the world is still spinning on its axis on the 23rd."
Two exit polls telecast by Times Now gave the NDA 296 and 306 seats, while they projected 126 and 132 for the Congress-led UPA.
The CVoter-Republic exit poll has forecast 287 and 128 seats for the NDA and UPA respectively.
The counting of votes will take place on May 23.
19:00 Clean sweep for BJP in Gujarat:
The News18 IPSOS Exit Poll has predicted a clean sweep for the BJP in Gujarat with 25-26 seats in fvaour of the saffron party. It has predicted 0-1 seat for Cogress.
18:39 NDA to get 306 seats: TIMES NOW-VMR exit poll:
And after the seven phases of voting ended, now is the time for the exit polls.
The TIMES NOW-VMR 2019 Exit Poll National Tally is as follows:
BJP+ (NDA): 306
Cong+ (UPA): 132
BJP+ (NDA): 41.1%
Cong+ (UPA): 31.7%
18:28 Rahul takes a swipe at PM on Kedarnath visit:
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has taken a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he went to holy cave at Kedarnath for meditation.
"From Electoral Bonds & EVMs to manipulating the election schedule, NaMo TV, Modis Army & now the drama in Kedarnath; the Election Commissions capitulation before Mr Modi & his gang is obvious to all Indians. The EC used to be feared & respected. Not anymore."
17:56 Voting ends, all eyes now on exit polls:
The mammoth Lok Sabha 2019 election exercise has come to an end this evening, paving the way for the findings of various exit poll surveys to start hitting the airwaves.
The crucial national elections, the biggest democratic exercise on earth, will see the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party wrestle with a grand alliance of Congress and a large number of regional parties to form the 17th Lok Sabha.
The first phase of Lok Sabha elections on April 11 saw a voter turnout of 69.43 per cent. Around 66 per cent turnout was recorded in both the second phase on April 18 and the third phase of polling on April 23. The overall voter turnout in the fourth phase of the national elections on April 29 stood at 64 per cent. The fifth phase of polling, held on May 6, saw 57.33 per cent turnout. The sixth phase of voting was held on May 12 and saw 63.3 per cent turnout. The last phase of elections, held today, recorded 56.3 per cent turnout till 5 pm.
17:03 Chandrababu Naidu meets Sonia Gandhi:
Andhra Pradesh chief minister and TDP leader N Chandrababu Naidu on Sunday met Sonia Gandhi and also held a second round of talks with top opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and Sharad Pawar, in an apparent bid to rally support for a non-BJP government at the Centre.
Naidu, who arrived in the national capital on Friday, had met Rahul Gandhi, Nationalist Congress Party chief Pawar, Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav and leaders of the Communist Party of India on Saturday as well.
He then flew to Lucknow and met Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati.
Sundays meeting assumes significance as Naidu is meeting Gandhi and Pawar after holding talks with the SP and BSP chiefs, who have not openly come in favour of an opposition alliance so far.
The TDP chiefs deliberations are part of his efforts to unite non-NDA parties and bring them together on one platform to stake their claim for the next government formation in case the NDA fails to get the majority mark.
16:54 Who am I? Modi getting blessing from people of Varanasi: Joshi on PM poll prospects:
As people of this holy city voted on Sunday in the last phase of the Lok Sabha 2019 elections, former MP and veteran BJP leader Murali Manohar Joshi said he is nobody to bless Narendra Modi, the party's candidate from this seat, as the prime minister has got blessings of the people.
Joshi, who won on BJP's ticket from Varanasi in 2009, was shifted to Kanpur in 2014 to make way for Modi to fight his Lok Sabha elections from this constituency in politically-significant Uttar Pradesh, but did not get a chance to fight the 2019 elections from any seat.
After casting his vote here, Joshi was asked by reporters whether his blessing are with Modi, who is again in the electoral fray from Varanasi, to which he said, said, "Who am I?... People are blessing him."
Joshi also visited the famous Kashi Vishwanath and Sankat Mochan temples here. He was BJP's president and a union minister in the NDA government from 1999 to 2004.
He won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Kanpur and was also head of Parliament's Estimates Committee.
Several reports presented by his panel were critical of the Modi government.
Earlier this year, Joshi had said in a statement that he was conveyed by the BJP General Secretary (Organisation), Ram Lal, about the party leadership's decision that he should not be contesting the elections. Lal is known as a Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh appointee in the party.
For a long time, Joshi was known as one of the key faces of the BJP alongside former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani.
But in recent years, Joshi and Advani have been among some veteran leaders who have been at times critical of the current leadership in the party and of the Modi government.
16:26 Violence in Bengal as BJP-TMC workers clash:
It's Battleground Bengal once again as bombs were hurled, vehicles attacked and TMC and BJP workers clashed in the last phase of Lok Sabha elections.
The seventh and final phase of Lok Sabha elections, one of the most bitterly fought in recent memory, saw 59 constituencies, including Varanasi where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to retain the seat, vote to elect their representatives.
Crude bombs and bricks allegedly hurled at TMC candidate from Bhatpara, Madan Mitra's car in Kankinara's Katapukur area of North 24 Parganas. Mitra is contesting the Bhatpara assembly by polls against BJPs Pawan Kumar Singh, son of former Trinamul MLA Arjun Singh.
TMC leader Derek O Brian has issued a second official statement against the violence that erupted in Bengal during polling. "We are against violence and want the polling process to be peaceful. But the BJP is resorting to a high level of violence in the Bhatpara Assembly by poll. This is dangerous for democracy. Goons of Arjun Singh have hurled bombs and even attacked the Trinamool candidate Shri Madan Mitra," he said.
Meanwhile, General secretary of the CPI-M Sitaram Yetchury took to Twitter to slam the TMC alleging massive rigging in Diamond Harbour, Dum Dum, North Kolkata.
16:16 Prince Harry and Meghan Markle celebrate their 1st anniversary:
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have completed one year of togetherness, one year of bliss!
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were announced man and wife last year at the Windsor Castle.
The royal couple welcomed a baby boy on May 6 ahead of their first anniversary. The baby's name - Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor- was revealed on the official Instagram account of the UK royals.
16:00 NPF to pull out of BJP-led govt in Manipur post polls:
Naga People's Front has said it will formally announce its decision to pull out of the BJP-led government in Manipur after the election process is over.
"The decision will be announced only after the election process is over. In principle, we had decided as far back as by February first week that we will withdraw support from the BJP-led government in Manipur. We are a registered political party under the Election Commission of India, therefore, we would like to see that the election process is over first before making the announcement," NPF spokesperson Achumbemo Kikon said.
The withdrawal of the support by NPF will not impact the coalition since the party has only four MLAs in the 60-member assembly. BJP which leads the coalition has 29 members in the House.
The other parties in the ruling alliance led by N Biren Singh are NPP (4), LJP (1), Independent (1) and AITC (1).
15:40 51.95% voter turnout recorded till 3 pm :
The poll percentage for the states is as following:
Himachal Pradesh: 49.43%
Madhya Pradesh: 57.27%
Uttar Pradesh: 46.07%
West Bengal: 63.58%
15:14 'Sidhu probably wants to replace me as CM':
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Sunday said that state minister Navjot Singh Sidhu wants to replace him as the head of the state government. The sharp comment comes after the cricketer-turned-politician made many veiled attacks against Singh.
The tension between the two Congressmen had also come out in the open on a few occasions in the past.
"He (Sidhu) is ambitious. Everyone has his/her own ambition. I know him since childhood. I have no difference of opinion with him. But he probably wants to become the chief minister and replace me, that is his business. But the timing, a day before the elections is wrong. The impact will be on party or on leaders contesting, not on me," Amarinder Singh said when asked to respond on Congress leader and Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu's recent indirect attacks on him.
The CM said that the Congress will surely take action against Sidhu for his alleged remarks as the party does not believe in indiscipline.
"It is now on central leadership to take a decision. So far, I have read that they have taken notice of it and they will probably take a decision after elections. Congress party does not believe in indiscipline. They will not accept damage to the party. Otherwise, you are free to say what you want but that should not damage the party," he said.
Recently, when Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu expressed her displeasure after being denied a ticket to contest Lok Sabha elections from Amritsar, Amarinder Singh had said that former was offered the chance to fight polls from the holy city but refused.
Responding to this, Navjot Singh backed her saying, "My wife has the courage and moral authority that she would never lie."
14:36 NCP supremo Sharad Pawar meets N Chandrababu Naidu in Delhi:
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar met Telugu Desam Party president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Sunday in a bid to step up efforts to form a non-BJP regime in the post-poll scenario.
On being asked about the purpose of the meeting, Pawar did not disclose much apart from saying that it was a meeting to assess the 'elections in their respective states.'
"We just met and assessed the elections in our respective states. We are waiting for counting day to take further steps," said Pawar.
In view of the impending results, non-BJP party leaders have been meeting each other to discuss the post-poll scenarios.
On May 18, Naidu undertook a hectic round of discussions with opposition leader including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati in Lucknow.
Naidu is on a mission of rallying opposition parties in a bid to keep the BJP out of power, in case its numbers fall short of majority considerably.
Sunday marks the end of the seven-phased Lok Sabha polls in the country. The counting of votes would take place on May 23.
14:17 Parties spent Rs 53 cr on ads on social media:
Political parties have spent over Rs 53 crore on digital platforms like Google and Facebook between February and May, with the Bharatiya Janata Party accounting for a lion's share of the spending.
According to Facebook's Ad Library Report, there were 1.21 lakh political ads with a total spending of more than Rs 26.5 crore between February and May 15 this year.
Similarly, ad spend on Google, YouTube, and partner properties since February 19 stood at Rs 27.36 crore with 14,837 ads.
Ruling party BJP spent Rs 4.23 crore on over 2,500 ads on Facebook. Supporting pages like 'My First Vote for Modi', 'Bharat Ke Mann Ki Baat' and 'Nation with NaMo' too, infused over Rs 4 crore on ads on the social networking platform that has well over 200 million users in India. On Google's platforms, it has spent more than Rs 17 crore.
The Indian National Congress spent Rs 1.46 crore on Facebook for 3,686 ads. It shelled out another Rs 2.71 crore on Google's platforms with 425 ads.
As per Facebook's data, All India Trinamool Congress has spent Rs 29.28 lakh.
Aam Aadmi Party shelled out Rs 13.62 lakh for 176 ads on the Facebook page. Interestingly, Google's political ad dashboard showed that Auburn Digital Solutions was running AAP campaigns and had spent Rs 2.18 crore from February 19 onwards.
Earlier this year, digital platforms like Google and Facebook had said that they will offer details of political advertisements on their platform to bring transparency ahead of elections in the country. They have also announced a slew of measures over the past few months to strengthen efforts around election integrity.
The general elections in the country have entered the final lap for 59 seats in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chandigarh.
Counting of votes for the world's largest democracy will be on May 23.
14:03 Media person roughed-up by Tej Pratap's guards:
Private security guards of jailed RJD chief Lalu Prasad's elder son Tej Pratap Yadav on Sunday roughed-up a cameraperson while he was covering Yadav at a polling booth. Yadav later alleged that the entire incident was a conspiracy to 'murder him'.
The camera person who was beaten by Yadav's security guards allegedly broke the windscreen of Yadav's car.
The incident occurred when Yadav was leaving after casting his vote.
Yadav later went to a police station in the city and filed an FIR in regard with the incident.
Tej Pratap said, "My bouncer did not beat anyone but has suffered an injury on his hand. I was leaving a poll booth when some media persons surrounded my vehicle. One of the camerapersons also hit the windscreen of my car."
He further dubbed the entire episode as a conspiracy to murder him and said, "I have registered an FIR. In the past too, I have received threats. I am being attacked continuously. This all is planted and there is a conspiracy to murder me."
Interestingly, Yadav had arrived in an e-rickshaw to cast his vote at the polling station and had said that because his vehicle was taking time to come, he boarded the 'common man's ride'.
Patna is among the 59 constituencies which went to polls today.
13:47 Farhan tweets "SayNoToPragya", gets trolled:
With India voting in the last leg of the Lok Sabha elections on Sunday, Bollywood actor Farhan Akhtar was massively trolled after he made an appeal to voters of Bhopal to vote against BJP's Pragya Thakur.
Now, here's the catch - the parliamentary constituency has already voted in the sixth phase of polls on May 12 last Sunday, which means Farhan is a tad too late in his political appeal.
"Dear electorate of Bhopal, it's time for you to save your city from another full-of-gas tragedy. #SayNoToPragya #SayNoToGodse #RememberTheMahatma #ChooseLoveNotHate," the actor tweeted.
Hawk-eyed Twitter users couldn't spare the actor for his faux pas. They were not only quick in pointing out the delay but also slammed the actor for his reference to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, one of the world's worst industrial disasters which claimed around 15,000 lives.
"Making fun of the gas tragedy and its victims. #Shameless," wrote a user.
"Change your internet connection. Your tweets are taking 10 days to be published," read another tweet.
Another user wrote, "These guys are so cut off from reality."
Despite the flurry of replies and merciless trolling, the "Rock On!!" actor is yet to issue take down his tweet or issue a correction.
Four hours after he put up the post on the micro-blogging website, it had garnered over 1,600 retweets and 8,600 replies.
13:28 39.85% voter turnout recorded till 1 pm:
Himachal Pradesh: 34.47%
Madhya Pradesh: 43.89%
Uttar Pradesh: 36.37%
West Bengal: 47.55
13:15 EC goof-up: Tejashwi Yadav's photo missing:
As the Lok Sabha elections are drawing to a close with the last phase of polling underway in 59 parliamentary constituencies, the Election Commission seems to have goofed up the voter list in Patna.
It has come to notice that the photo of RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav is missing from the voter list in Patna and instead someone else's photo has been printed.
However, officials have said that Tejashwi Yadav will be allowed to vote if he comes with any of his identity cards.
Polling is currently underway in eight Lok Sabha constituencies - Nalanda, Patna Sahib, Pataliputra, Ara, Buxar, Jehanabad, Sasaram and Karakat.
Prominent among those who voted in the capital city at different polling stations include - Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, his Deputy Sushil Kumar Modi, Union Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
13:05 Cave PM Modi meditated in can be rented for Rs 990/day:
The cave where Prime Minister Narendra Modi meditated in Kedarnath in Uttarakhand is equipped with all modern facilities and is available for just Rs 990 a day.
As part of the strategy to popularise meditation cave built in Kedarnath last year, prices were slashed and some clauses dropped by the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam.
Rudra meditation cave, which GMVN officials say, was built after Modi suggested the concept of meditation caves in the area, is located around one km upwards of Kedarnath shrine.
Initially priced at Rs 3000 per day, the tariff was slashed to Rs 990 as the caves found very few takers last year. The cave did not get a good tourist response last year as by the time it was opened for bookings, the weather had already become quite cold. Secondly, we realised the tariff was too high, BL Rana, general manager of GMVN.
Moreover, it was also mandatory for the tourist to book it for a minimum period of three days. The Nigam has removed the three-day booking clause from this year.
Offering electricity, drinking water facility and a washroom, the outer part of the cave is made up of stones and has a wooden door. The Nigam also offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and tea two times in a day to the tourist residing in the cave at a time of their choice.
An attendant is available on call 24X7 with a call bell installed in the cave.
Since the cave is located at a remote location and is meant to encourage meditation, only one person is allowed in the meditation cave at a time. Even though the cave offers complete isolation, a phone has been installed in the cave which can be used by the visitor in case of an emergency.
12:24 Rahul hails women for playing key role in LS polls:
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday hailed women for playing a key role in the general elections and said the voices of "mothers and sisters" must be heard.
His remarks came as polling began for the final phase of the polls in 59 seats to decide the fate of 918 candidates including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking to retain the Varanasi seat in Uttar Pradesh.
"Today is the 7th and last phase of polling. Our mothers and sisters have played a key role in these elections, not just as candidates, but also as committed voters whose voices must be heard. I salute them all," Gandhi said.
Earlier, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted: "Do vote in the last phase of the general elections to make the country liberal and progressive."
"One vote, will make the future of the youth empowered. One vote, will take the farmers towards loan waiver. One vote, will take small traders towards profit. One vote, will get the deprived 'Nyay' (justice)," he said.
12:05 BJP's Jadavpur candidate's car attacked:
Jadavpur BJP candidate Anupam Hazra's car has been vandalised. His team alleges that that it was done by TMC workers who were trying to attack him.
"TMC is doing this because they fear defeat. My team has been attacked, our polling officers were threatened and my workers have suffered injuries," said Hazra.
BJP leader Babul Supriyo launched an attack on Mamata Banerjee over the repeated incidents of violence and says that violence is bound to take place when the CM of the state says 'she will take revenge'.
Talking about TMC's notice over Modi's Kedarnath visit, he says, "It's up to the media to cover PM's visit or not. You cover Sachin when he votes... TMC should have clarity about their complaints, this is desperation in the face of defeat."
11:49 State-wise voter turnout till 11 am:
Himachal Pradesh: 25.11%
Madhya Pradesh: 28.52%
Uttar Pradesh: 22.13%
West Bengal: 32.15%
11:45 What happens when India's first voter casts his vote:
103-year-old Shyam Saran Negi, who first exercised his franchise in the year 1951, cast his vote at the same polling booth at village Kalpa for the 32nd time.
The local administration made all arrangements for ferrying him from his home to the polling booth located nearby at the primary school. Also, doctors are attending him on a regular basis of health checkup.
The "Pratham Prathmik Vidyalaya" where the polling booth is located was established in the year 1890 accorded a 'red carpet' welcome to Negi who is hailed as an icon as he voted for the first time at the same booth in 1951 after the independence.
Since then, Negi has voted in all 16 Lok Sabha elections and will be doing so for the 17th time at his native village Kalpa. He has also voted in 13 assembly and two territorial council elections.
11:21 'Unethical': TMC to EC over PM's Kedarnath visit:
The TMC wrote to the Election Commission on Sunday alleging the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Himalayan shrine of Kedarnath is a violation of the model code of conduct.
"Even though the Election campaign for the last phase of polling for 2019 Lok Sabha is over as long as back on May 17 at 6 pm, surprisingly Narendra Modi's Kedarnath Yatra is being covered and widely televised for the last two days in all national as well as local media. This is a gross violation of the Model Code of Conduct," Trinamool Congress spokesperson Derek O'Brien said in the letter.
He said the prime minister even announced that the master plan for the Kedarnath Temple is ready and also addressed the public and the media at the temple town.
"lt is absolutely unethical and morally incorrect.
"Every minute detail of his activities during the visit is being widely publicised with an ulterior motive to influence voters directly and/or indirectly. "Modi Modi" chants are also being heard from the background," he said.
The TMC leader said all these moves were well calculated with the "ill intention to influence the voters" on the polling day.
It is unfortunate that the poll body has not taken any action against the PM, it added.
"Election Commission, the highest body and the eyes and ears of the democratic process, remains blind and deaf to the gross violation of the MCC. l would request you to take immediate action and stop telecast of such surreptitious and unfair campaign which is also morally wrong," he said.
Modi, who is on a two-day visit to Uttarakhand, reached Kedarnath on Saturday and is expected to be at Badrinath temple Sunday.
11:01 12% voting recorded till 10 am in phase 7:
Nearly 1 per cent voters cast their votes in the first three hours of polling in the final round of the seven-phase elections.
Prime Minister Narendra Modis constituency Varanasi is among the 59 parliamentary seats voting across 7 states.
At 10 am, the Election Commission website put the overall voting figure at 11.61%, with Jharkhand reporting highest turnout of 15% and Punjab lowest of 10.01%.
Early morning queues were seen at several polling booths in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Himachal Pradesh.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was among the early voters and batted for shorter poll schedules: "Elections should not be held over such a long duration, there was a long gap between each phase of voting. I will write to leaders of all parties to build a consensus on this."
10:35 Didn't seek anything from God: PM in Kedarnath:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday thanked the Election Commission for granting him permission to visit the Kedarnath shrine at a time when the model code of conduct is in force.
Modi, who spent around 17 hours at a holy cave near the shrine, offered prayers and performed puja at the temple.
He told reporters he did not ask for anything while praying as it is not his nature.
"God has given us capacity to give and not demand," he said.
He said may the almighty bless not only India but the whole humankind with happiness, prosperity and welfare.
"I am fortunate to visit the temple on multiple occasions," he said while thanking the media for taking out time to visit Kedarnath at a time when the poll process is underway.
The media's presence, he said, will send a message that the town has been developed well.
Referring to the ongoing development works at the temple town, Modi said development should be a mission in which nature, environment and tourism should not be affected.
He said he has been reviewing the work through video-conferencing.
Modi reached the temple town Saturday. Dressed in a grey traditional pahari attire, he offered prayers for about 30 minutes and undertook a circumambulation of the Kedarnath shrine situated at a height of 11,755 feet near the Mandakini river.
The prime minister then went inside a cave near the shrine to meditate. Draped in a saffron shawl, Modi was seen meditating at the holy cave.
The prime minister also took stock of development work in the temple town. -- PTI
09:42 After meditation, PM performs puja at Kedarnath :
Prime Minister Sunday performed puja at the Kedanath shrine after meditating for 17 hours at a holy cave near the temple.
He reached the shrine situated at a height of 11,755 feet near the Mandakini river on Saturday and paid obeisance. He also took stock of development work in the temple town.
Later in the day, he is expected to be in Badrinath, another temple in Uttarakhand's 'char dham' religious circuit.
This is Modi's fourth visit to the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in the last two years.
The portals of Kedarnath and Badrinath shrines reopened for devotees earlier this month after the winter break.
The prime minister arrived at the Jolly Grant airport Saturday morning and then went directly to Kedarnath, officials said. -- PTI
09:03 Elect honest, effective MPs: India's 1st voter:
India's "first" voter Shyam Saran Negi has appealed to Himachal Pradesh electors to elect "honest" candidates for all the four Lok Sabha seats in the state.
"Elect honest and active candidates for your parliamentary seats instead of voting for particular parties," 102-year-old Negi said.
Negi also expressed his desire to vote again on Sunday during the final phase of 2019 general elections.
"A resident of Himachal's tribal district Kinnaur, Shyam Sharan Negi is India's first voter and very important for the state Election Department," Kinnaur District Election Officer Gopal Chand said.
A retired school teacher, Negi, as per his official records, was born on July 1, 1917.
Negi still vividly remembers how he became India's first voter.
"India's first election was held in February 1952, but the voting for remote, tribal areas in Himachal was held five months in advance on October 23, 1952 owing to fears of inclement weather rendering the exercise impossible here during winter," he said.
"I was a school teacher then and had been put on the election duty. Due to it, I reached my polling booth at Kalpa Primary School in Kinnaur at 7 am to cast my vote. I was the first one to reach there and cast my vote," he said.
"Later I was told I was the first to cast my vote anywhere in the area," he said with an glint in his eyes.
Negi added he proceeded to join his election duty after casting his vote.
Negi, who also made a special appearance in Hindi film "Sanam Re", said he never missed casting his vote ever since then whether it be a panchayat election or the Lok Sabha polls.
Talking of his desire to vote again, Negi complained of his failing health as possible impediment in fulfilling it.
"It's my last wish to vote again. But I have got immobile legs and aching knees now, besides failing vision and hearing," said Negi.
On Negi's fears, District Election Officer Gopal Chand said, "Negi is very important for us. We will have him brought to the polling booth and drop him back at his home."
"We still take care of his health and other needs. A government doctor regularly visits him to check his health," he said.
Negi is among 999 voters of the state who are 100 or above, a state election official said. -- PTI
08:44 Gehlot mocks Modi for meditating in Kedarnath:
Congress leader and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for meditating in Kedarnath, wondering what message he wants to give now.
After Modi offered prayers at the Himalayan shrine in Uttarakhand, he went inside a cave nearby to meditate. Television channels showed his photographs in which he was wearing a saffron shawl.
"Today he is sitting in a cave wearing 'bhagwa' (saffron). God knows, what message he wants to deliver. Everybody has been watching him," said Gehlot, who also accused the prime minister of doing "nothing but polarisation".
Congress's chief spokesperson too criticised Modi, tweeting a picture of the prime minister walking on a "red carpet" in God's abode.
"True devotees sacrifice their ego and arrogance before going to the abode of God, not after laying a red carpet. Modi ji, hope you know that much," Surjewala said on Twitter.
On Sunday, Modi is expected in Badrinath, another temple in Uttarakhand's 'char dham' religious circuit.
Gehlot criticised Modi for his "silence" on employment, farmers problems, economy and foreign policy and instead raising issues like religion and nationalism.
Commenting on the press conference by Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah Friday, Gehlot told reporters here they did not address the media in the past five years but suddenly came before reporters now.
"See their face and body language during the press conference. The country has seen the message they gave. (Congress president) Rahul Gandhi had challenged them to debate but they backed off.
"Why they stayed away from talking about issues? What they did in five years? What was their vision? They talked (only) about their campaigning and strategy," Gehlot said. -- PTI
08:38 Show inked fingers, get discounts at restaurants in Patna:
Some of the restaurants in Patna have decided to offer discounts to those customers who have voted today in the last phase of the general election.
Lakhu Ka Dhaba, a multi-cuisine restaurant on Fraser Road, has planned to offer a discount of 17 per cent.
"Since we are going to elect the 17th Lok Sabha in 2019, we have put up a discount of 17 per cent for voters who will visit our restaurant tomorrow after casting their vote. Our idea also is to promote voting," said Vijay Kumar, a staff of the restaurant.
This is an eight-year-old restaurant but the discount is being offered for the first time, he said.
At Laziz Tandoori, also located on Fraser Road, its manager Dushyant Raj said there will be a range of discount on various food items.
"On May 19, we will be offering discount to voters, who come to our place and show the inked finger, and, depending on the results on May 23, will offer a bigger discount on that day," Raj said.
But many restaurateurs are playing it by ear and plan to offer discounts if only they get good crowd.
"People prefer to stay indoors after voting on polling day, and during the day time hardly any customers come, so by evening if we get decent number of customers, we might offer discount to voters," said an employee of Sagar Restaurant on Old Patna Bypass Road.
Owner of Food Hut, another restaurant, also on Old Bypass Road has similar plans.
Patna district has two constituencies -- Patnas Sahib and Pataliputra -- which are going to polls on Sunday.
The main city falls with the Patna Sahib constituency, represented by sitting MP Shatrughan Sinha fighting on a Congress ticket, and pitted against BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad, which is expected to be a keen contest. -- PTI
08:36 War within EC worrying, says Owaisi :
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi said reports of a war within the Election Commission were worrying and emphasised on unanimity of views in the poll panel.
The ECI is one of the more trusted public institutions in the country, a 'war within' is extremely worrying. The SC, in TN Seshan case had made it clear that CEC doesnt enjoy a higher status than other ECs & must strive towards unanimity. Basic Constitutional norms must be respected, he tweeted.
Owaisi tagged a media report on Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa recusing himself from model code violation cases till his dissents are recorded on orders. -- PTI
08:14 Voting begins for last phase Lok Sabha polls:
Polling began Sunday morning for 59 Lok Sabha seats in the seventh and last phase of Lok Sabha polls to decide the fate of 918 candidates including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking to retain the Varanasi seat in Uttar Pradesh.
Voting is underway in all 13 seats in Punjab and an equal number of seats in Uttar Pradesh, nine in West Bengal, eight seats each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, four in Himachal Pradesh, three in Jharkhand and the lone seat Chandigarh.
Over 10.01 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise. The Election Commission has set up more than 1.12 lakh polling stations and has deployed security personnel for smooth conduct of polls.
A bypoll is being held in Panaji, necessitated due to the death of former chief minister Manohar Parrikar in March.
Bye-elections are also be held in four assembly constituencies of Tamil Nadu -- Sulur, Aravakurichi, Ottapidaram (SC) and Thiruparankundram -- and the Dehri assembly seat in Bihar.
In Uttar Pradesh, all eyes are on Varanasi, where besides Modi, 25 other candidates are in fray.
Modi's main challengers are Congress's Ajay Rai and SP-BSP grand alliance's nominee Shalini Yadav.
Union minister Manoj Sinha, Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Mahendra Nath Pandey are seeking re-election from Ghazipur and Chandauli respectively.
SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri are among the 278 candidates including 24 women whose fate is being decided in Punjab.
Besides Punjab, more than 6 lakh voters in the union territory of Chandigarh will choose between sitting MP and BJP candidate Kirron Kher and former railway minister and Congress candidate Pawan Kumar Bansal.
Actor-turned-politician Sunny Deol, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar, Aam Aadmi Party's Punjab unit chief Bhagwant Mann are among other prominent candidates in the fray.
An electorate of 1,49,63,064 will decide the fate of 111 candidates in nine seats of West Bengal -- Kolkata North and Kolkata South, Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jadavpur, Diamond Harbour, Jaynagar (SC) and Mathurapur (SC).
As many as four Union ministers -- Ravi Shankar Prasad, Ram Kripal Yadav, RK Singh and Ashwini Kumar Choubey -- are among the 157 candidates in Bihar.
The electoral fortunes of 42 candidates including that of former chief minister and Union minister Shibu Soren are being decided in Jharkhand.
Dewas, Ujjain, Mandsaur, Ratlam, Dhar, Indore, Khargone and Khandwa seats in Madhya Pradesh, all currently held by the BJP, are going to polls in Madhya Pradesh.
Polling is also being held in all four Lok Sabha constituencies in Himachal Pradesh.
An average of 66.88 per cent voters exercised their franchise in the last six phases. The whole elections were spread over 38 days. Counting of votes will be taken up on May 23. -- PTI