New Delhi: India voted in the third phase of General Elections on Thursday with the soaring mercury making it a damp squib affair.
Of the nine states and two Union Territories that went to polls on Thursday, only 40 to 45 per cent of the total 144 million voters exercised their franchise.
A total of 1,567 candidates were in the fray including Congress president Sonia Gandhi and L.K. Advani, the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) choice of prime minister.
OFF POLL: A jawan keeps vigil outside a polling booth after the local people boycott voting in Purulia.
Barring stray incidents of violence in West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, the polling was by and large peaceful.
Mumbai, where the expectations from voters was the highest, disappointed with neither Bollywood nor 26/11 attack bringing the crowds in. The city recorded a turnout of 43 per cent, lower than 2004's 47 percent.
While Bollywood stars turned up in droves, the aam aadmi was missing. Mumbai North recorded a turnout of about 47 per cent, while Mumbai North West clocked 49 per cent.
The prominent candidate in this constituency was Samajwadi Party’s Abu Azmi.
Mumbai East saw a poorer turnout, only 42 per cent of the voters turned up.
But this constituency wasn't alone. Mumbai Central as well as Mumbai South Central saw the same voter turnout of 42 per cent.
Mumbai South only did marginally better at 43 per cent, even as Congress leader Milind Deora and candidates from Shiv Sena, the MNS as well as an independant vied for it today.
With this, the electoral process has been completed in 372 seats of the 543-member House of the People . The states where polling is over are Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and two UTs of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
Now only 171 seats have been left for polling in the next two phases on May 7 and 13 with the mandate to be out on May 16.
Polling also took place for the 32-member legislature in Sikkim, bordering China, which sends a single member to the Lok Sabha. The state recorded an encouraging 65 per cent turnout – the highest in India.
"The entire poll process was absolutely peaceful and extremely satisfactory," Deputy Election Commissioner R Balakrishnan told reporters after the 10-hour exercise.
The low percentage has triggered panic among the stake holders who were seen blaming the scorching heat for the poor turnout.
However, Deputy Election Commissioner R. Balakrishnan told reporters after the 10-hour exercise, that the voting patterns had been encouraging.
"The entire poll process was absolutely peaceful and extremely satisfactory," he said.
In the Gir forests of Gujarat, home to the majestic Asiatic lion, two officials trekked 20 km to reach a polling station where its only voter cast his ballot.
Big contenders L K Advani, Sonia Gandhi, H D Deve Gowda were among the 1567 candidates in the constituencies which went to the polls, 26 of which were in Gujarat, followed by 16 in Madhya Pradesh, 15 in Uttar Pradesh, 14 in West Bengal, 11 each in Bihar and Karnataka, 10 in Maharashtra and one each in Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
This phase polls were crucial for BJP which held more than 40 seats while Congress nominees were trying to ensure turnout of their supporters to make inroads in the BJP-ruled states of MP, Karnataka, Bihar and Gujarat.
About 40 per cent votes were polled till 1500 hours this afternoon in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections to 14 seats in West Bengal even as two BSF jawans were injured in a landmine blast, rival supporters clashed and voters boycotted polling in several booths.
According to official reports, about 40 per cent voters turned up to exercise their democratic rights till afternoon as brisk to moderate polling was reported from 14 constituencies.
Darjeeling, where voters were polarised on the issue of a separate state, recorded the maximum turnout at 50 per cent, while about 48 per cent voters exercised their franchise in Raigunj.
The turnout was 45 per cent at Malda South, Ghatal, Bankura and 40 per cent at Cooch Behar, while the rest of the constituencies reported below 40 per cent polling.
An estimated 35 per cent of the total 15.95 million voters sealed the fate of 196 candidates in the third and final phase of polling to ten constituencies in the general elections in Maharashtra.
The polling, which began on a sluggish note, remained lethargic before gathering momentum in the later stage.
A total of 30,000 strong security personnel ensured a peaceful polling held in the backdrop of 26/11 terror attack in the metropolis.
The voter turnout dropped significantly following summer vacations and a long weekend due to poll holiday and labour day preceding the weekend.
Other prominent personalities whose fate was decided today were Janata Dal(United) president Sharad Yadav, former union Textile Minister Syed Sahanwaz Hussain,former Minister of State for External Affairs Digvijay Singh , who is fighting as an Independent, Nationalist Congress Party(NCP) national general secretary Tariq Anwar , Union Minister and RJD nominee Taslimuddin, JD(U) state president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh ,former minister in the Nitish Kumar cabinet and JD(U) candidate Monazir Hassan and slain CPI-M leader Ajit Sarkar's wife Madhabi Sarkar,contesting as a CPI-ML candidate.
The constituencies where polling was held were Araria, Banka, Begusarai,Bhagalpur,Katihar,Khagaria,Kishjanganj,Madhepura, Munger, Purnia and Supaul.
The polling was lowest at just over 26 percent in the Kashmir Valley's Anantnag constituency, once a militant stronghold, but it was nevertheless more than the 15 percent recorded in 2004.
Compared to Anantnag's towns and cities, rural areas also saw large-scale voting, delivering another blow to the separatist Hurriyat Conference that had called for an election boycott.
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