11.03 pm: Here are the top stories of the day.

  • BJP chief Amit Shah said that nobody can separate Kashmir from India till his party exists. 
  • The Delhi High Courtrefused to hear a plea seeking an order to the Election Commission to bar National Conference leaders Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, and Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti from contesting the polls.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked voters to choose between an “honest chowkidar” and a “corrupt dynast”. He also targeted Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar asking him why he had allied with the Congress.    
  • The Congress said it will contest all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi on its own. Party leader PC Chacko blamed the Aam Aadmi Party for not being able to finalise the alliance. 
  • BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi filed a petition in the Supreme Court alleging that Rahul Gandhi had committed contempt of court by his remarks on the bench’s verdict on the Rafale deal.
  • The Congress demanded that Union minister Smriti Irani step down for “falsifying” details about her educational qualifications. 
  • Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman claimed she was worried that fake letters are being circulated after the Rashtrapati Bhawan reportedly said it has not received any letter from armed forces veterans. 
  • Rahul Gandhi said that the Congress will never allow Tamil Nadu to be “ruled from Nagpur”. He also endorsed DMK chief MK Stalin to become the next chief minister of the state.
  • Union Minister Maneka Gandhi said she will not work for Muslims if they do not vote for her. The BJP leader said she is winning the Lok Sabha polls with or without the support of the community.
  • The Supreme Court directed all political parties to submit details of political donations received through the electoral bonds scheme to the Election Commission by May 30. 

10.55 pm: In Telangana, the Lok Sabha polling percentage was 62.69%, the Election Commission reports. The data for 172 out of 175 Assembly constituencies in Andhra Pradesh shows that 78.14% of the electorate voted. Data for three Assembly constituencies will be sent soon, the panel adds.

10.52 pm: The four constituencies in Odisha which held elections on April 11 recorded a voter turnout of 73.76%, the poll panel says.

10.47 pm: In Maharashtra, 61.81% of the electorate cast their vote during the April 11 polls, the Election Commission says. Uttar Pradesh, where eight constituencies went to the polls, recorded a voter turnout of 63.88%. Five constituencies in Uttarakhand recorded a polling percentage of 59.89%, the election panel says.

10.45 pm: In Arunachal West constituency, the polling percentage was 62.36%, the Election Commission says. In Arunachal East, it was 73.53%. The combined percentage for Arunachal Pradesh is 67.08%.

10.42 pm: The Karnataka High Court has set aside an order by a Bengaluru sessions court imposed on 49 media houses last month, prohibiting them from reporting defamatory statements about Bharatiya Janata Party candidate for the Lok Sabha elections from Bengaluru South, Tejasvi Surya.

10.35 pm: The Election Commission has said that 1.07% of ballot units, 0.98% of control units and 2.18% of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail machines were replaced during the first phase of the polls.

10.33 pm: Businessman Robert Vadra claims that the people of Amethi and Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh are very happy that the Gandhi family is with them, ANI reports. “Development is always on our minds,” he says. “We always reach out and meet everyone. We will do all we can to further develop both Amethi and Rae Bareli.”

10.30 pm: The Income Tax Department has conducted searches at multiple locations in Tamil Nadu on suspicion of allegedly illegal cash being used to lure voters, PTI reports. Searches at 18 locations in Chennai, Namakkal and Tirunelveli have led to the seizure of Rs 15 crore in cash.

10.25 pm: The Election Commission has issued a notice to Srinagar Mayor Junaid Azim Mattu for allegedly violating the Model Code of Conduct by distributing mobile phones among corporators of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, PTI reports.

10.23 pm: Bastar Lok Sabha seat saw a voter turnout of 65% despite Maoist threats, a polling officer has said according to PTI. It had recorded a turnout of 59.32% in 2014.

10.22 pm: In Kashmir, 74.22% of the eligible voters cast their vote on April 11. In Jammu, 67.42% of the voters have participated in the polling.

10.18 pm: The poll turnout in Alipurduar Parliamentary constituency of West Bengal has been 83.70%. In Cooch Behar, it has been 83.88%. The total polling percentage has been 83.79%.

In Bihar, the combined turnout in Aurangabad, Nawada and Jamui constituencies has been 52.86%, compared to 50.79% in 2014, the Election Commission says.

10.15 pm: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have recorded 64.85% voter turnout in the April 11 elections, the poll panel says. Lakshadweep has recorded a voter turnout of 86.78%.

10.10 pm: Mizoram has recorded a voter turnout of 63.02% in the April 11 Lok Sabha election. In Assam, the turnout has been 78.23%. In Nagaland, the turnout has been 83.12% compared to 88.25% in 2014.

10.05 pm: Former Union minister Krishna Tirath rejoins the Congress after a gap of four years, PTI reports. Tirath had quit the party in 2015 to join the BJP ahead of assembly elections in Delhi.

“We welcome her back in the Indian National Congress. Krishna ii had a long stay in Congress Party,” says AICC general secretary in-charge of party affairs in Delhi PC Chacko. “She has contributed immensely to the Congress Party and she is very important person in Delhi. For some time, she was not with us, I welcome her back to the Congress Party today.”

Tirath was the Women and Child Development minister in Manmohan Singh government.

10 pm: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has been cleared of charges that he violated the Model Code of Conduct, PTI reports. A Congress spokesperson had made an oral complaint to the district election officer stating that Fadnavis was using his official residence to conduct political meetings after poll code came into force on March 10.

“We conducted an investigation into the complaint, but we did not find any substantial proof,” Mumbai city collector and election officer Shivaji Jondhale tells PTI. “We were informed that the CM meets a lot of visitors at this residence everyday, but that does not amount to any violation.”

9.55 pm: Describing the Election Commission as “insensitive, unrealistic, irresponsible and useless”, Naidu alleges the poll body had turned into a BJP branch office.

“As senior leader, I have to warn them [the EC]. Country should know. They should not commit any more these type of mistakes,” Naidu says.

9.45 pm: Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu accuses the Election Commission of India of making the election process a “big farce”. A day after elections for 175 Assembly and 25 Lok Sabha seats was completed, the Andhra Pradesh chief minister claims that 30% to 40% EVMs in the state were either malfunctioned or did not function at all.

“This is a very big farce. Disaster for the nation,” Naidu says at a press conference. “I can say it is a big confusion, big mess, big farce.”

9.21 pm: FR Kharkongor, the chief electoral officer of Meghalaya, said 71.37% voting took place in the state in the first phase of the Lok Sabha polls on April 11, ANI reports. “Female turnout was higher than the male turnout,” he adds. Kharkongor says he has recommended to the Election Commission that a re-poll be held at Konarchar polling station under Selsella constituency

9.19 pm: Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti says India is a secular country, and the language being used by Amit Shah (of removing “infiltrators” from India) is not right, ANI reports. “J&K had decided to join India keeping in mind its secular culture,” she adds. “I think Amit Shah should apologise to people of this country because the foundation of this country has been laid on secularism. It’s not only for Hindu, Sikh or Muslim, the country is for everyone.”

9.14 pm: Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad says Narendra Modi is using achievements and sacrifices of the armed forces for vote bank politics, PTI reports. “The BJP, its government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are trying to take credit for the achievements and sacrifices of our armed forces, which no government in the past has done for vote bank politics”, Azad says at a rally in Udhampur.

9.12 pm: Some Patidar community leaders led by CK Patel have met BJP President Amit Shah, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and other government functionaries on Thursday, PTI reports. CK Patel says at a press conference that the meeting was aimed at bringing to the attention of the government some unresolved problems faced by the community.

9.07 pm: The district administration in Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh have issued a show cause notice to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader Indresh Kumar for claiming that Opposition leaders have mental problems, PTI reports. “Opposition leaders have mental problems and they need to visit medical centres,” he had said on Sunday.

9.02 pm: Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu says in Bihar’s Kishanganj that the Modi government’s “Main bhi chowkidar” campaign wants to make everybody a watchman, while other countries are busy exploring new horizons, PTI reports. “China is laying down railway tracks under water,” he says. “The United States is exploring the possibility of sustaining life in space. Russia is coming up with incredible robots. And here these people want to make everyone watchmen.”

8.50 pm: Speaking to reporters, Maneka Gandhi clarifies her remarks, saying a “certain media channel” played an “out of context” and incomplete speech, ANI reports.

8.47 pm: Congress fields Jyotiraditya Scindia from Guna in Madhya Pradesh and Manish Tewari from Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, PTI reports.

8.40 pm: Additional Chief election Officer BR Tiwari says a show cause notice has been issued to Maneka Gandhi for her remark during a speech before a gathering of Muslims in Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, ANI reports. A report has been sent to the Election Commission and the poll panel has taken cognisance of the matter, the official says.

The Union Minister for Women and Child Development had said she is winning the Lok Sabha election with or without Muslims. “I am winning, but if my victory is without Muslims, I will not feel good, because then there is a bitter feeling,” Gandhi was heard saying in a video. “If Muslims come for some work after that I will think ‘why bother’. Because employment is a negotiation after all, isn’t that right? We are not Mahatma Gandhi’s children to keep giving without getting anything in return.”

8.32 pm: Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi says the BJP should reveal its ‘murky flood of money”. “Financial dominance of the single party decimates the very concept of a level-playing field,” he says, according to PTI. “To ensure this flow of dirty money in a non-transparent manner by this so-called corrupt invention of bonds is nothing, but, a direct assault on the Indian constitutional basic structure.”

Earlier on Friday, the Supreme Court said details of funding received through electoral bonds should be kept in a sealed cover by Election Commission also till further orders. The top court asked parties to give the poll panel details of identity of donors, donations received from every donor.

8.26 pm: Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy accuses Modi of using the patriotism of soldiers for his gain, PTI reports. Earlier in the day, Modi had accused Kumaraswamy over his reported remark that only those who cannot manage two square meals a day seek jobs in armed forces.

“Despite clarifying on the false post by BJP Karnataka, Modi still gets carried away by wrong inputs of state leaders,” Kumaraswamy says on Twitter. “The PM is using the patriotism of soldiers for his gain. He rides on such emotional waves because there are no development issues to talk about.”

8.07 pm: Modi claims several RSS and BJP workers have been killed and attacked in Kerala for serving the people. “Kerala is a land of peace and harmony but insensitive Communists & Congress have brought a culture of political violence. I assure my fellow BJP Karyakartas- your struggles will not go in vain,” he says.

8.05 pm: Modi once again hits out at the Congress on the Income Tax Department’s searches conducted in Madhya Pradesh. “Detailed probes revealed that the money trail reaches the house of a top Congress leader in Delhi’s Tughlak Road,” he says in Calicut.

7.50 pm: Narendra Modi takes on the Left Dermocratic Front and the United Democratic Front in Kerala, accusing them of having failed the people of the state. “UDF and LDF are different only in name. In deeds they are the same. Both have taken turns to loot the state,” Modi says in Calicut.

He says the BJP presents an alternative that is inclusive, democratic and compassionate.

7.20 pm: Former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi claims poll strategist Prashant Kishor met her husband Lalu Prasad with the proposal to merge the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal (United), PTI reports. She says Kishor had proposed to declare the merger’s prime ministerial candidtae ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Devi says if Kishor denies having met proposal with such a proposal, then it is a blatant lie. “I got infuriated and asked him to go away as I had no trust left in Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar following his betrayal,” Devi says. “All our staff and security personnel deployed here are witnesses...He came in broad daylight and not clandestinely in the dark of night.”

6.50 pm: The Delhi High Court refuses to entertain a plea seeking a direction to the Election Commission to bar Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah from contesting elections for allegedly making seditious and communal statements. The petition was withdrawn after the High Court asked the petitioner to approach the Election Commission instead.

“Will it not be a mockery of democracy to allow those people and parties to participate in the Lok Sabha election when people/parties openly call for sedition to divide Mother India on the basis of religion [Muslim majority] and two prime ministers [for Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India],” the petition said, according to PTI.

6.45 pm: The Congress moves Election Commission against Narendra Modi and Amit Shah for allegedly “dragging the armed forces” in the political domain to seek votes. “Dragging the armed forces in political crossfire, asking for votes and doing cheap politics (using the forces), only Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have done this,” Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi says.

A delegation of the party submits several representations to the Election Commission, including Smriti Irani’s “contradictory affidavits” on her educational qualifications, and a web series on the prime minister.

6.37 pm: Goa Deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai has backed Manohar Parrikar’s son Utpal Parrikar for the Panaji Assembly bye-election, which will be held on May 19. The bye-election became necessary after Parrikar, former Goa chief minister, died on March 17.

“First is whether Utpal is interested...if he is interested then certainly he becomes the rightful heir to his father’s legacy.” Sardesai said on Thursday.

However, Sardesai has added that a final decision on Utpal Parrikar’s candidature will be taken by his family and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

6.30 pm: Congress’ Goa unit chief and Lok Sabha candidate Girish Chodankar claims several BJP workers who are frustrated with some of the “immoral decisions” of the party are supporting Congress, PTI reports. “The message among people is clear. They want the BJP to be defeated as it has attacked democracy,” he says.

He claims that the Congress will win all five seats in the state.

Chodankar is contesting against Union AYUSH minister Shripad Naik in the North Goa Lok Sabha seat. Naik has held the seat since 1999.

6.10 pm: Himachal Pradesh Power Minister and BJP leader Anil Sharma resigns, two weeks after the Congress fielded his son Aashray Sharma as its candidate from the Mandi Lok Sabha constituency, PTI reports. Anil Sharma’s father Sukh Ram had quit the BJP and joined the Congress along with Aashray Sharma.

6.05 pm: AAP leader Gopal Rai claims his party can win all seven seats in Delhi on its own, and that Congress candidates will lose their deposits, ANI reports. However, he adds that the Congress is capable of defeating the BJP in Punjab on its own.

5.58 pm: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh says the BJP government would like to make the law against sedition even more stringent, PTI reports. “Congress is saying that they will repeal the sedition law,” he says in Gandhidham city in Gujarat. “I want to ask you all, should we forgive those anti-nationals who are trying to break the unity and social fabric of our country? If it’s within our powers, we will make the sedition law even more stringent. We will make such a strict law that it would send shivers down their spine.”

5.52 pm: Narendra Modi is the “element of hate among Indians”, Rahul Gandhi says at a rally in Tamil Nadu’s Theni, PTI reports.

5.32 pm: “Kashmir can’t be separated from India till the last BJP worker is alive,” Amit Shah claims in Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh, PTI reports.

5.20 pm: Vice President Venkaiah Naidu says free power and loan waiver schemes are not long-term solutions to farmers’ woes, PTI reports. Speaking at the 125th Foundation Day celebrations of the Punjab National Bank in New Delhi, Naidu pitches for “timely, affordable and cheaper credit” to be made available to farmers.

5.13 pm: BJP chief Amit Shah demands that Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel ask the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the murder of party MLA Bhima Mandavi in a Maoist attack earlier this week, The Indian Express reports. “The moment Congress took power in Chhattisgarh, CBI was banned,” he claims at a rally in Rajnandgaon. Shah alleges there was a political conspiracy behind Mandavi’s killing.

Shah adds that there was no corruption in the state during the BJP government of Raman Singh.

5 pm: Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Misa Bharti, a candidate for the Patliputra Lok Sabha constituency in Bihar, tells The Indian Express in an interview that she believes Rahul Gandhi can be a future prime minister. “He has shown a humane attitude and his ability to lead the grand old party of India into the future,” she claims. “Only a compassionate and liberal person who respects this diversity and understands the disparity can lead the country to the glorious and prosperous future.”

Bharti also claims there is no rebellion within her party, describing the rift between Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav as “much ado about nothing”.

4.53 pm: Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani hits back at the Congress for alleging that she falsified records of her educational qualifications, PTI reports. Irani says the Congress and its “stooges” have been attacking her for the last five years. “I have a message for them...as much as you try, I will work for Amethi against the Congress,” she adds. “No matter what you say, the more you harass me, the harder I’ll work.”

4.49 pm: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu says he will meet Election Commission officials on Saturday, ANI reports. “I’m going to discuss the anomalies and technical problems electronic voting machines are facing,” he adds. “Nobody knows what is happening in EVMs.”

4.45 pm: Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav claims the BJP is dividing the society on the basis of caste and religion while the mahagathbandhan or Grand Alliance is committed to removing hatred, PTI reports.

“They [BJP] confused the people with their promises and forgot the ‘acche din’ [good days] promise after coming to power,” he says. “The BJP is playing politics by dividing the society on basis of caste and religion. Our mahagathbandhan wants to remove the hatred and bring a change to save the Constitution.”

4.39 pm: Karnataka Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao says specific targeting of opposition leaders by the Modi government is misuse of power. “This government is trying to curb free and fair elections,” he says.

4.35 pm: Karnataka Congress responds to Narendra Modi’s “20% commission government” remark. “PM Narendra Modi is 100% commission agent,” says Congress. “That has been established in the Rafale Scam. He is using central agencies to target opposition parties. No raids ever on BJP leaders! He is trying to block a probe in Rafale Scam by not giving documents to Supreme Court.”

4.22 pm: Modi says Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy and Congress President Rahul Gandhi do not give importance to nation’s security, reports News18. “These people are born with a silver spoon,” he says. “That is the reason why the JDS-Congress and their team do not give any importance to the security of our country. That is why there was a scam in each of their defence deals. This is why our jawans carry poor quality weapons”.

4.18 pm: Modi dubs the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition in Karnataka as a “20 per cent commission government”, PTI reports.

4.14 pm: Modi says the wave of BJP and its allies will sweep the Opposition. “The situation in West Bengal is chaotic,” he says. “It’s a sign of an imminent change.”

4.11 pm: “For the festival of Sultan, they have money but fall short of money when it comes to celebrating Hampi festival,” says Modi, referring to Tipu Sultan Jayanti.

4.06 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi says the Karnataka chief minister said that people who can’t afford two square meals should join the forces. “He has insulted the soldiers of our armed forces,” he says. “They secure our borders facing adverse conditions. However, these people [JD(S)] can’t understand this.”

4.01 pm: Himachal Pradesh Power Minister Anil Sharma resigns from the state’s BJP government, PTI reports. Sharma says he is still a member of the BJP.

His resignation comes after his father, former Union minister Sukh Ram, and son, Aashray Sharma joined the Congress a few days ago.

Aashray Sharma has been fielded as the Congress candidate from Mandi Lok Sabha constituency. Anil Sharma had refused to campaign for the BJP candidate who is contesting against his son and had suggested that he was willing to resign as minister.

3.57 pm: Modi targets Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and Janata Dal (Secular) supremo HD Devegowda. “Deve Gowda’s son has [said] that he would retire from politics if NDA again forms government in the Centre,” he says. “Do you believe him? During 2014 election, Deve Gowda ji had said that if Modi becomes PM, he would retire. As expected, he didn’t retire from politics.”

3.54 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public meeting at Gangavathi, Karnataka. “This is an election between Nation First or Family First,” he says. “Congress and JD(S) are detached from people and attached to their own family.”

3.52 pm: The Congress calls Union Minister Smriti Irani a “serial liar” and alleges that she had “falsified records” about her educational qualifications and indicated that she should step down from her post. The attack over Irani’s credentials came after the Union Textiles Minister disclosed in her nomination affidavit for the Amethi Lok Sabha seat that she had not completed her graduation degree.

Read more here:

‘Mantri Bhi Kabhi Graduate Thi’: Congress attacks Smriti Irani, asks her to step down

3.49 pm: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee says regional parties will play a major role in the elections, PTI reports. “Together, we will together form the government at the Centre,” she says during a rally at Kurseong, West Bengal. “The BJP will find it difficult to bag even 100 Lok Sabha seats in the ongoing polls.”

3.44 pm: Aam Aadmi Party leader Gopal Rai says AAP and Jananayak Janata Party have formed an alliance in Haryana, reports ANI. Rai says the Jananayak Janata Party will contest seven seats and the AAP will contest on three seats in Haryana.

3.25 pm: Adityanath claims the Congress government in Chhattisgarh was not serious about dealing with Naxalism and the killing of BJP legislator, Bheema Mandavi, in a blast in Dantewada earlier this week, reports PTI.

3.23 pm: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath says the Congress manifesto encourages terrorism and Naxalism, PTI reports. “Congress is hand in glove with anti-national,” he says at a rally in Ambikapur, Chhattisgarh.

“Lord Ram is associated with the memories of Ayodhya and Chhattisgarh but some people are now denying the existence of Ram,” Adityanath says. “Congress is raising questions over the existence of Ram. It was the Congress that raised questions over the Ram Setu and tried to destroy it.”

3.17 pm: Former Union minister Krishna Tirath rejoins Congress, reports ANI. She had joined the BJP in 2015.

3.13 pm: “Narendra Modi has hurt you over the years,” Gandhi says in Salem, according to Hindustan Times. “He has given a slogan ‘Made in India’, but all we see is ‘Made in China’. It was all a farce. We will bring about the real ‘Made in India’ and ‘Made in Tamil Nadu’.”

3.09 pm: Congress chief Rahul Gandhi take a jibe at demonetisation at a rally in Salem, Tamil Nadu, reports Hindustan Times. He says: “One morning, Modi decides to destroy the economy, and brings about a note ban. Did he ask anyone? No. Because even a 12-year-old would have told him that there is something wrong with the decision.”

3.01 pm: Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi says Congress chief Rahul Gandhi crossed all limits by using unparliamentary language against the prime minister, reports ANI. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says Gandhi used defamatory words. “He has repeatedly called the Honourable Prime Minister of the country a chor [thief] and has put words in the Supreme Court’s mouth,” she says, according to News18. A BJP delegation met the Election Commission regarding Gandhi’s remarks.

2.55 pm: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee says she is proud of the armed forces, but will never seek votes highlighting achievements of soldiers, reports PTI.

2.50 pm: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says two senior Army officers have denied giving consent to adding their names in a purported letter written by veterans of the armed forces to President Ram Nath Kovind. She said it was worrying that fake letters and allegations are being signed by vested interest groups. “It is absolutely condemnable,” ANI quotes her as saying.

2.45 pm: Chacko says the candidates for the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi will be announced soon, reports NDTV. “AAP wanted to have an alliance in other states also which is not practical,” he says, according to ANI. “Every state is different; we will announce the seats tomorrow or day after tomorrow. If they are ready for an alliance in Delhi with Congress, we are ready even today.”

2.41 pm: Chacko says the Congress was ready for an alliance with Aam Aadmi Party “provided they stick to the basis on which we had discussions in Delhi, corresponding to our strength in Delhi”, NDTV reports.

2.31 pm: Congress leader PC Chacko says an alliance with AAP in Delhi was a political necessity to defeat BJP. As per initial discussion, Congress agreed to three seats for the party and four seats for AAP.

Chacko says the Congress has now decided to contest all seven seats in Delhi alone, reports NDTV. “We are not able to have an alliance with AAP, we will contest alone.”

2.01 pm: Union minister Smriti Irani says the Congress has attacked her in every possible manner over the last five years, reports ANI. “I only have one message for them, the more you will insult me, the more you will attack me, the harder I will work against Congress in Amethi.”

She was referring to Congress party’s jibes regarding her disclosure in the poll affidavit that she is not a graduate.

1.50 pm: Union Minister Maneka Gandhi appeared to have threatened the Muslim community in Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, to vote for her or face the risk of not receiving her help as a lawmaker. “I am winning, but if my victory is without Muslims, I will not feel good, because then there is a bitter feeling,” Gandhi is heard saying in a video clip. “If Muslims come for some work after that I will think ‘why bother’.”

Read more here:

Lok Sabha polls: Maneka Gandhi tells Muslims to vote for her or risk losing job opportunities

1.47 pm: The BJP says it will wait for the Supreme Court’s final judgement on the electoral bonds scheme, PTI reports. “Whatever is the order of the Supreme Court, it has to be complied with and it is always complied with,” says BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli and lawyer Nalin Kohli. “As far as issues raised by the government is concerned, they have been placed before the court for its consideration. And we will await the final judgement.”

1.34 pm: BJP chief Amit Shah says Odisha is rich in natural resources and minerals, but the people are still poor. “Due to lack of employment opportunities in Odisha, the youth has to migrate to other states to earn livelihood.”

1.32 pm: Former Army Vice Chief Lieutenant General ML Naidu denies giving consent to a letter written on behalf of armed forces veterans to President Ram Nath Kovind, ANI reports.

Major General Harsha Kakkar, who is listed a signatory in the letter, says he gave his consent after knowing the contents of it.

1.28 pm: BJP chief Amit Shah addresses a rally at Keonjhar, Odisha. He says the people of this country have made up their minds to make Narendra Modi the prime minister again. He takes a jibe at Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, saying he can’t talk to people in Odia even after ruling the state for 19 years.

1.25 pm: The Congress welcomes the Supreme Court order on the electoral bonds scheme. Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi says the Congress has always called for transparency in political funding and governance, PTI reports.

Chaturvedi says the Supreme Court order would bring out the nexus between the saffron party and its “suited-booted friends”.

1.20 pm: General SF Rodrigues, who is listed as a signatory in a letter purportedly written by veterans of armed forces to the president, says he does not know who wrote the letter, reports ANI. “We in the services have always done what the government in power ordered us, we are an instrument of the state,” he says. “We are apolitical. Anyone can say anything and then sell it as fake news.”

1.16 pm: Congress President Rahul Gandhi Friday claims Prime Minister Narendra Modi ran his government for 15 of his friends and questions why loans defaulters, like Vijay Mallya were not in jail, reports PTI. “Not even a single one is in jail,” he says while addressing a rally at Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu.

Gandhi says when the Congress is voted to power, farmers won’t be put in jail for failing to pay back their bank loan. “It is not fair that the richest people do not go to jail but farmers go to jail for the same offence.”

1.09 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a rally at Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, says India has had a strong and decisive government over the past five years, reports Hindustan Times. “Before that there was a remote-controlled government for ten years when news of scams was the order of the day.”

1.01 pm: Congress President Rahul Gandhi addresses a rally at Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu. “We will never ever let the people of Tamil Nadu be ruled by Nagpur,” he says referring to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which has its headquarters in Nagpur. “Tamil Nadu is going to be ruled from Tamil Nadu [and] MK Stalin is going to be the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu,” ANI quotes him as saying.

The Congress is contesting the elections in the state with Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam.

12.58 pm: Former Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal NC Suri, who was also listed as a signatory in the letter to the president, says his consent was not taken for any such letter and that he does not agree with the contents of the letter. “To put an end to it, I wrote that armed forces are apolitical and support the politically elected government...we have been misquoted.”

Suri says the letter was written by a Major Chaudhary and has been circulated on WhatsApp and email.

12.54 pm: Rodrigues says: “Don’t know what it (the letter to the president) is all about.All my life, we have been apolitical. After, 42 years as an officer, it’s a little late to change. Always put India first. Don’t know who these people are, classic manifestation of fake news.”

12.50 pm: General SF Rodrigues, who is listed as a signatory in a purported letter written by veterans of the armed forces to President Ram Nath Kovind, denies signing it, reports ANI. The letter urged the president to stop the politicisation of the military ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

12.33 pm: Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Rabri Devi says Janata Dal (United) Vice President Prashant Kishor had approached her husband, Lalu Prasad Yadav, to advise him to come together with Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar. “But we protested. We don’t trust Nitish,” she says in an interview with News18.

12.29 pm: The Supreme Court allows former Trinamool Congress MP Saumitra Khan, who is now a BJP candidate, to enter Bishnupur constituency in West Bengal to file his nomination papers, PTI reports.

Khan is an accused in cases of allegedly taking money from students on the promise of giving them jobs. The Calcutta High Court had banned Khan from entering Bankura district, under which his constituency falls, to ensure free and fair investigation. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked Khan to approach the Calcutta High Court seeking modification of the order.

12.25 pm: Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury asks the Election Commission to act strongly against the BJP for its “despicable attempts” to politicise and misuse the armed forces during the election campaign, PTI reports.

“We are at a stage where military veterans, also ex-chiefs, have to come together to tell off BJP-Modi’s despicable attempts to misuse our brave Forces for elections,” Yechury says on Twitter. “BJP won’t reform but those responsible for conducting free [and] fair polls must act strongly against the ruling party.”

12.21 pm: Modi criticises the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party led by Sharad Pawar, saying the two parties have allied with people who demand two prime ministers – one for Kashmir and one for the rest of the country, reports ANI. “What has happened to Sharad Pawar” asks Modi. “You left the Congress for the sake of the country. Now why are you silent when people are talking about two prime ministers for the country.”

Read more here: Narendra Modi asks voters to choose between ‘honest chowkidar’ and ‘corrupt naamdar’

12.17 pm: Modi asks: “Are you happy with policy of killing terrorists in their dens?” He says there have been no terror attacks in India in the last five years, during “chowkidar’s rule”.

12.16 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a rally at Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. He asks voters to choose between “honest chowkidar [watchman]” and “corrupt naamdar [dynast]” referring to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, reports PTI.

12.13 pm: The Left Democratic Front in Kerala complains to the Election Commission seeking action against BJP chief Amit Shah for creating communal divisions, reports Hindustan Times. At a rally in Nagpur on Wednesday, Shah said: “When a procession is taken out there [Wayanad], it is difficult to make out whether it is India or Pakistan,” Shah said. She was referring to the green flags of the Indian Union Muslim League, a Congress ally in Kerala’s United Democratic Front.

12.09 pm: The Election Commission directs states to grant parole to convicts during the ongoing election season only in cases of “extreme emergency”, but it should be ensured that they do not participate in election-related affairs, reports The Indian Express.

12.03 pm: Unidentified government officials say Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh may not face action for violating the Model Code of Conduct and may get away with a warning on “technical grounds”, reports The Indian Express. The officials says Singh’s remarks seeking support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election bid were made in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh and not in Rajasthan.

11.55 am: Congress leader Priyanka Chaturvedi says the letter written by Army veterans to the President over the use of the armed forces should be addressed, reports News18. She asks “The government is patting its own back while not answering on the intelligence lapses that led to the Pulwama attacks, what is the EC [Election Commission] doing about this? Will they take note of this letter?”

Chaturvedi mocks Union minister Smriti Irani who declared in an election affidavit that she is not a graduate. “A new serial will come titled ‘kyunki mantri bhi kabhi graduate thi,” says Chaturvedi referring to Irani’s long-running serial Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahun Thi.

11.50 am: Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav mock BJP’s “acche din aane waala hain” (good days are coming) slogan. “Now, even the black hole has been seen. But ‘acche din’ has not yet been seen.”

11.41 am: On BJP’s prospects in South India, Sitharaman says they have managed to strike good alliances. “It may not be a sweep. But we will do well,” she says. “Today the environment in the South is no longer such that only a regional party can dominate. People are able to make a distinction between a national election and a local [state] election.”

11.39 pm: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says the BJP’s emphasis has been on putting the nation first. She was asked why the party was talking more about nationalism than development this election during an interview with The Indian Express.

She says: “Whether it was the 2016 surgical strike or Balakot air strike, we had credible information that more attacks could happen. The prime minister took an action which should have been taken after the [Mumbai terror] attacks in 2016…I underline the fact that not a single civilian was hurt. This was a clear pre-emptive, non-military action of finishing off terror. So why not talk about it?

Read more here:

Balakot airstrike: Nirmala Sitharaman says Pakistan did not take journalists to the actual spot

11.24 am: The Congress criticises BJP for trying to use the defence forces for votes. “Modi may try to use soldiers for votes, but it’s clear that soldiers stand with India and not the BJP,” says the party in response to a letter written by veterans to President Ram Nath Kovind.

11.11 am: The Supreme Court agrees to hear a contempt petition of BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi against Congress President Rahul Gandhi on April 15, reports ANI. Lekhi filed the contempt plea for Gandhi’s remarks on the Supreme Court order on the Rafale case.

11.09 am: Makers of a biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi move the Supreme Court after the Election Commission defers the film’s release. The Supreme Court agrees to hear the case on April 15, reports ANI.

Read more here:

Narendra Modi biopic: SC will hear plea challenging stay on film’s release on Monday

11.06 am: The Supreme Court was hearing petitions filed by non-governmental organisation Association for Democratic Reforms and Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury against the use of electoral bonds for political funding.

Read more here:

Electoral bonds: Supreme Court asks parties to submit details of donations to poll body by May 30

11.02 am: The Supreme Court says details of funding received through electoral bonds should be kept in a sealed cover by Election Commission also till further orders, PTI reported. The top court asks parties to give the poll panel details of identity of donors, donations received from every donor.

The court says will examine in detail changes made in law and ensure balance does not tilt in favour of any party.

10.45 am: Supreme Court asks all political parties to disclose to the Election Commission in sealed covers all the particulars related to donations received through electoral bonds by May 30, 2019.

9.57 am: Case filed against 11 people, including four BJP leaders, for taking selfies inside polling stations in Uttarakhand during the first phase of the 2019 General Elections.

9.56 am: Referring to Shah’s statement, the Kerala Christian Forum says it was a “direct attack on identity and integrity of the nation as a secular state”, ANI reports. The forum also hoped that the BJP and Shah apologise to the country, especially to minorities who feel persecuted.

9.53 am: Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien purportedly refers to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah as “terrible twins” who make “communally divisive” statements every day.

He was referring to Shah’s statement at a rally in Darjeeling on Thursday that the Bharatiya Janata Party will ensure the National Register of Citizens is implemented across the entire country if it forms the next government. Shah had claimed that the BJP will remove all infiltrators from the country, except Hindus and Buddhists.

9.43 am: Union minister Nitin Gadkari says different opinions must be respected, reports NDTV. “We should respect different opinions because this is the real, true spirit of democracy,” Gadkari says. “We do not want to call anybody who is not with us anti-national. It is his right to express and we do not have any problem about it because we always say that there are differences of opinion in a democracy.”

9.41 am: The Left Front and Congress also demanded a re-poll in Cooch Behar, IANS reports. “We also demand that wherever the poll was conducted with state armed police in Cooch Behar, we demand a re-poll,” All India Forward Bloc state committee Secretary Naren Chatterjee said. “There were as many as 170 booths where there were disturbances.” AIFB candidate Gobinda Rai was reportedly attacked and his crar was vandalised on Thursday.

“For peaceful elections in West Bengal, all booths should be manned by central forces,” Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya said.

9.28 am: BJP’s Cooch Behar candidate Nishit Pramanik staged a protest in front of the district magistrate’s office accusing the ruling Trinamool Congress of rigging, reports News18. He demanded a re-poll in 500 booths where state police personnel were deployed.

9.26 am: Union minister Smriti Irani declares in her poll affidavit that she is not a graduate. This is the first time that she makes it clear in her poll affidavit that her three-year degree course was “not completed”.

Read more here

Lok Sabha polls: Smriti Irani declares college degree ‘not completed’ in nomination affidavit

9.23 am: Among the 18 states and two Union territories that voted on Thursday, West Bengal saw the highest turnout of 80.9% while the lowest – 50.3% – was in Bihar.

9.15 am: More than 150 veterans of the Indian armed forces write to President Ram Nath Kovind urging him to stop the politicisation of the military. The letter urges Kovind to “take all necessary steps to urgently direct all political parties that they must forthwith desist from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to further their political agendas”.

Read more here

Stop parties from using armed forces for political gain, urge eight former service chiefs

9.14 am: The Election Commission on Thursday issued a show cause notice to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath for comparing the Lok Sabha polls to a contest between Ali and Bajrang Bali, and another to Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati for her speech urging the Muslim community to not divide votes by choosing the Congress.

Read more here

Lok Sabha elections: EC issues show cause notices to Adityanath and Mayawati

8.29 am: Fifteen EVMs were damaged due to vandalism during the first phase of voting on Thursday, says the Election Commission. While six were damaged in Andhra Pradesh, five in Arunachal Pradesh, two in Manipur and one each from West Bengal and Bihar.

8.26 am: Polling continued past 10 pm at some booths in Andhra Pradesh due to faulty electronic voting machines and violence, reports IANS. Chief Electoral Officer Gopal Krishna Dwivedi says voting continued at 400 polling stations even after 6 pm. He says the process will continue till all the voters standing in queues cast their votes.

Read more here

Polling in Andhra Pradesh goes on till midnight, faulty EVMs and violence delay voting

8.24 am: Here are the top updates from Thursday:

  • The first phase of the Lok Sabha elections concluded with voters in 91 constituencies across 18 states and two Union territories exercising their franchise.
  • The Election Commission barred NaMo TV from telecasting recorded programmes with political content and political advertisements without being certified by the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee.
  • The Noida Police refuted social media posts that food packets delivered to personnel at polling booths with “Namo” labeling were politically linked. The Election Commission said the reports were irrelevant.
  • Cricketer-turned-politician Gautam Gambhir continued his attack of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, bringing up their recent Twitter spat while speaking to the media on Thursday.
  • Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal claimed that Pakistan wants Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remain in power because it wants riots in India.
  • Attorney General KK Venugopal told the Supreme Court during a hearing on the electoral bonds scheme that voters do not need to know where the money for political parties comes from.