New Delhi: An estimated 43 crore of India's 72 crore electorate voted in the five-phase general elections that saw a turnout of 59-60 percent, the Election Commission announced on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, when the last round of polling was conducted in 86 constituencies in seven states and two union territories, 62 percent of the voters had exercised their franchise, Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla told reporters.
The first round of the elections on April 16 saw a turnout of over 60 percent, on April 23 it was 55 percent, on April 30 the figure was 50 and the fourth round on May 7 saw 57 percent of voters casting their ballot.
In the last parliamentary elections in 2004, 57.65 percent of the 671.4 million electorate had voted.
Chennai/Puducherry: Over 60 per cent voters exercised their franchise in 39 Tamil Nadu constituencies on Wednesday amid sporadic violence in which one person was killed while in neighbouring union territory of Puducherry the turnout was 75 percent.
Poll officials of the two regions said the final tally will be known only after all those voters who came to the booth at 1700 hrs IST have voted.
One man was killed and 13 injured in election related clashes in three places in Tamil Nadu, including the state capital. Police said DMK member S Thangavel died after being stabbed during a clash between supporters of the state's ruling party and AIADMK in Dindigul town, about 350 km Chennai.
There were complaints of large scale voter omission across the state during the polls that would decide the electoral fortunes of 823 candidates in Tamil Nadu of which 41 are women.
Prominent candidates include Home Minister P. Chidambaram, union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar and E V K S Elangovan of the Congress; Dayanidhi Maran, M K Azhagiri and T R Baalu of the DMK and MDMK's Vaiko.
There were 52,175 polling stations in the state, which in the last elections state logged 60.76 polling.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi along with his wife cast his vote and expressed confidence in the DMK-led three party alliance - Congress and VCK being other two - sweeping all the 40 seats - 39 in Tamil Nadu and the lone Puducherry constituency.
Chidambaram also expressed confidence of Congress victory.
"The poll results in Tamil Nadu will undoubtedly be the crowning glory of the Congress-DMK combine's continuing endeavours. While I am sure of my victory, our front will certainly do very well," Chidambaram told reporters in Sivaganga after casting his vote.
The minister hopes for a sixth consecutive win from the Sivaganga parliamentary constituency, about 350 km south of Chennai.
Former chief minister and AIADMK general secretary J. Jayalalithaa and movie star Rajinikant cast their vote in Stella Maris College near their Poes Garden residence.
Speaking to reporters after voting Jayalalithaa said she was keeping her post-poll options open.
"There are feelers from many places. I am not responding to them now. Everything depends on the election results. If the results are as expected then I will go to Delhi," she said.
In Puducherry, P T Rudra Goud, joint chief electoral officer, told IANS: "We expect the final poll tally will be anything between 75-80 percent."
He said the polling was smooth.
In the 2004 general elections Puducherry recorded 75.99 percent polling.
The constituency comprises of Puducherry, Mahe, Yanam and Karaikal.
Over 40 percent voting in Baramulla, 61 in Ladakh
Baramulla: Hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic voters Wednesday defied a boycott call by separatists and threats from militant groups to vote in Jammu and Kashmir's Baramulla constituency Wednesday.
According to officials, some 421,000 voters of over one million electorate cast their votes by 1700 hrs IST in Baramulla, once a hotbed of militancy and a stronghold of pro-Pakistan separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani.
The state's cold desert region Ladakh saw a turnout of over 61 when the polling closed. Voting couldn't be held at two polling stations in Zanskar assembly segment of Ladakh because poll staff and material could not reach the snow bound areas on time.
The polling in the two polling stations would now be held May 15, a day before poll results are declared, state's chief electoral officer B.R. Sharma told reporters.
"Baramulla saw over 40 percent voting and in Ladakh it was 61," Sharm said.
The voting percentages are expected to go up as the data was still being collated from some remote areas.
The voting percentage in Baramulla was far higher than in Anantnag and Srinagar constituencies in the Kashmir Valley. The two constituencies, which voted in earlier rounds of the staggered Lok Sabha elections, had recorded an overall percentage of 26 and 24 respectively.
Highest polling was recorded in Handwara (61 percent) while Sopore - a Jamaat-e-Islami stronghold - saw lowest at 10.
"Polling has been peaceful throughout the Baramulla and Ladakh constituencies," Sharma said.
Separatist leaders had insisted on boycott of the polls while Pakistan-based militant groups - the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the United Jehad Council - had threatened people to vote "at their own peril".
Baramulla had recorded 35.66 percent voting in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections while in Ladakh it was 73 percent then.
Baramulla is witnessing a triangular contest between Sharief-ud-Din Shariq (National Conference), Mohammed Dilawar Mir (Peoples Democratic Party) and Sajjad Gani Lone of the separatist People's Conference.
All eyes are on Lone, the surprise entrant in the poll ring. Lone is the first separatist leader in Kashmir to contest the polls since an armed uprising broke out in 1989.
Voting picked up as the day progressed in Buddhist-dominated Ladakh where four candidates are in the fray. The main contest is between P. Namgyal (Congress) and Ghulam Hassan Khan (independent).
Ladakh has always been polarised between Buddhist and Muslim voters.
Senior separatist leaders including Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik are under house arrest to prevent anti-poll protests.
55 percent polling in Himachal
Shimla: Himachal Pradesh saw over 55 percent voting for its four Lok Sabha seats that went to polls on Wednesday.
"The voter turnout could be slightly higher than 55 percent as people who had queued up at polling stations at 5 p.m. would be allowed to cast their votes," the state's chief electoral officer Anil Khachi told IANS.
"The maximum turnout was in Mandi, followed by Hamirpur, Kangra and Shimla," he added.
The high-profile Mandi seat has seen a fight between five-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh (Congress) of the former royal family of Bushehr state and Maheshwar Singh (Bharatiya Janata Party - BJP) of the erstwhile ruling family of Kullu.
Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, Virbhadra Singh, his wife and sitting MP Pratibha Singh, and Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma were among the early voters.
Thirty-one candidates, including nine independents, are in the fray for the four seats. The main contest is between the Congress and the BJP.
The Congress fielded sitting MPs Dhani Ram Shandil and Chander Kumar in Shimla and Kangra respectively against the BJP's Virender Kashyap and Rajan Sushant.
From Hamirpur, the Congress has fielded BJP rebel Narinder Thakur against the BJP's sitting MP Anurag Thakur, the son of Chief Minister Dhumal.
For the first time, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has fielded a candidate for the Mandi seat - Onkar Shad, a technocrat, who is expected to dent the Congress' winning margin.
While the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded candidates for all the four seats, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has fielded one candidate from Kangra.
The Election Commission set up 7,253 polling stations in the state to enable 4,604,832 voters to exercise their franchise through around 11,000 electronic voting machines (EVMs).
The highest polling station in this hill state was set up at an elevation of over 15,000 feet at Hikkam in Lahaul and Spiti district. It has 321 electors.
The Kaa polling station in Kinnaur district has only 19 voters - the lowest in the state.
Kunnu-Charang in Kinnaur's Pooh subdivision is the remotest polling station in the state where voters have to trudge some 10 to 20 kilometres to vote. The polling booth has only 169 voters.
The state has 708 hypersensitive polling stations and 1,259 sensitive ones. Over 15,000 police, paramilitary and home guards personnel were deployed.
Kinnaur district, adjoining China, has the highest number of 36 hypersensitive polling stations.
The Congress had won three seats in the 2004 general elections while the BJP had one seat.