New Delhi: More than 55 per cent of the nearly 200 million voters on Thursday exercised their franchise in the second phase of Lok Sabha polling across 12 states which was by and large peaceful barring stray violence in Naxal-infested areas of Jharkhand and Bihar.
Two poll officials and a magistrate had a narrow escape when Naxals carried out blasts in Bihar and Jharkhand where security forces repulsed a Naxalite bid to disrupt the second phase of elections after a fierce hour-long gunbattle.
An executive magistrate Rajendra Prasad and a constable were wounded when Naxals lobbed a bomb at their vehicle near Dadi-Srirampur village in Giridih district in Jharkhand. They were going to a polling station in the district, about 200km from Ranchi.
In a separate incident, security forces foiled the Naxals' attempt to disrupt polling in Bansdera in East Singhbhum, 165 km from the Jharkhand capital, after a fierce hour-long gunbattle with the ultras.
However, the violence in the second and the largest phase covering 140 seats was much less compared to the first one a week ago when 18 people were killed by Naxals in Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Gaur cast his vote at a polling station in Gauhati Lok Sabha segment in Assam amid high security.
The second phase of the five-round elections saw the electoral fate of a number of political heavyweights, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi (Amethi), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar (Madha), Union Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath (Chhindwara), Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan (Hajipur) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj (Vidisha) being sealed.
With the conclusion of polling in the second phase, voters have given their verdict on 265 Lok Sabha seats (after 125 in the opening round), seven short of the majority in the 543-strong Lok Sabha.
Among the 12 states and Union Territories which went to poll on Thursday, Andhra Pradesh, where the outcome could shape Congress' comeback bid at the Centre, recorded 68 per cent, followed by Orissa (55 per cent), Maharashtra (56 per cent), Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (44 each), Karnataka (55), Madhya Pradesh (45), Jharkhand (47) and Jammu and Kashmir (46).
Brisk polling was reported from all the 140 constituencies spread across 12 states in the second round of the five-phased elections that came to an end at 1700 hrs IST in most places, except in Naxal-infested areas where it closed at 1500 hrs IST.