New Delhi: India voted in the first phase of the five-phased General Elections to the 15th Lok Sabha on Thursday amid violence and in the shadow of the gun.
According to the Election Commission, an estimated 60 per cent of the 14.30 crore voters exercised their franchise in 124 constituencies.
But the polling was marred by largescale Naxal violence in four states, killing 18 people, including five poll officials and 10 security personnel.
The highest voter turnout was 86 per cent, recorded in Lakshadweep and the lowest – 46 per cent – in Bihar.
"Considering the complexity and the challenges, the Election Commission is totally satisfied with today's polling, Deputy Election Commissioner R Balakrishnan told reporters here while briefing mediapersons about the voter turnout.
Simultaneous elections to assemblies in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa also drew about 60 voters' response with the polling today covering more than half of the constituencies in the two states.
The elections were marred by Naxal attacks in Gaya, Bihar and Latehar and Chatra in Jharkhand. Heavily-armed Naxals attacked polling stations across states shortly after voting began on Thursday morning, blasting a landmine to target a bus ferrying Border Security Force personnel in Jharkhand's Latehar district in Jharkhand, killing seven personnel and two civilians.
Armed rebels also blew up a vehicle carrying poll officials in Chhattisgarh's Rajnandgaon district, killing five of them. According to agency reports, polling booths were set on fire and there was exchange of fire between naxals and security forces in Dantewada and Narainpur areas of the state that left two CRPF jawan dead and five others injured.
This phase of the General Elections will seal the fate of 1,715 candidates including RJD chief Lalu Prasad, BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha, TRS president K Chandrasekar Rao and union ministers Praful Patel, Renuka Chowdhury, Meira Kumar and S Jaipal Reddy.
Bihar: 50 pc polling despite Naxal scare
Key contest: It’s a make or break battle for RJD chief Lalu Yadav. Fighting this election in alliance with his former rival Ram Vilas Paswan, Lalu is pulling out all stops for a strong performance. Just like last time he is again pitted against BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
Bihar recorded nearly 50 per cent voter turnout in the first phase of general elections on Thursday amid violence by Maoist rebels, who killed two security personnel and attacked polling stations in Gaya.
Nearly 50 per cent voters of the 17.6 million electorate exercised their franchise in the first round, according to official estimates after polling ended in 13 of the state's 40 Lok Sabha constituencies.
Orissa: 50 pc voting in Kandhamal
Elections passed off peacefully in Orissa's Kandhamal district, with around 50 per cent voter turnout, an official said on Thursday.
The district witnessed communal riots last year that killed 38 people. "As per the preliminary estimate the voting was around 50 per cent. It may go up a little because half the polling stations are located in the interior areas and we are yet to get the full details," District Collector Krishan Kumar told IANS.
"Nearly 80 per cent of the voters living in the relief camps also exercised their franchise in their respective polling stations with the help of local administration," Kumar said.
Kandhamal district, about 200 km from here, witnessed widespread communal violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram August 23, 2008.
Andhra Pradesh: 65 pc polling reported
Key contest: It’s the Chiranjeevi factor in Andhra Pradesh. His new outfit – Praja Rajyam - is being looked at as a possible game changer. Strong in the Telangana region of the state, Chiranjeevi is hopeful of repeating his on screen success in the political theatre as well.
A moderate 60 to 65 per cent polling was recorded Thursday in the first phase of elections in Andhra Pradesh where ballotting was held for 22 Lok Sabha and 154 assembly constituencies.
Polling ended at 4 pm However, in some polling booths officials allowed those standing in the queue to cast their votes even after the scheduled time.
Officials said 60 to 65 per cent of the 31.2 million voters, half of them women, cast their votes, sealing the fate of 2,148 candidates - of whom 315 were for the Lok Sabha.
Northeast: Heavy yet peaceful polling
Voting in the first phase of elections to 24 parliamentary seats from six of the seven insurgency-hit northeast states ended on Thursday, with heavy polling recorded in 10 seats amid incidents of stray violence.
An estimated 7.45 million voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in the first phase of elections in the six of the seven northeastern states. The electoral fortunes of 72 candidates are now sealed.
Jammu and Kashmir: Peaceful at 49 pc
Polling was peaceful in Jammu and Kashmir as 49 per cent of the 17-lakh electorate cast their votes in the first round of the five-phase Lok Sabha elections.
Of the state's six parliamentary constituencies, voting was held in Jammu constituency only, which is spread over four districts - Poonch, Rajouri, Jammu and Samba. In the 2004 election, the constituency had recorded about 45 per cent voting.
(With inputs from PTI, IANS)