Led by enthusiastic voters in West Bengal, Assam and Tamil Nadu, 11 states voted with gusto on Thursday, bettering 2009 figures in a heart-warming show of democracy at work in 117 constituencies during the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha polls.
While the best figures of West Bengal, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu -- 81.4%, 80% and 73% respectively -- were more or less the same as the last polls, other states did quite well in to notch up better voting percentage.
According to preliminary estimates after polling ended, Assam recorded 77.6% voting (up 6%), Madhya Pradesh 66% (up more than 10%), Jharkhand 63.5% (up 11%), Chhattisgarh 66% (up more than 10%), Uttar Pradesh 60.12% (up 13%), Bihar 60% (up 8%), Rajasthan 59% (up 9%) and Maharashtra 55.26% (up 10%).
Even in Mumbai, where voting started on a very slow pace, the percentage went up to as much as 52.67%, an improvement of 11% over the 2009 figures.
The overall polling percentage in the 117 constituencies was 63.69%, which could go up when Election Commission compiles the final figures.
The only blemish was Anantnag constituency in Jammu and Kashmir where a meagre 28% polling was recorded, mainly due to intimidation by militants.
Militants struck again in the evening, shooting dead a polling officer and critically injuring five others in Nagbal area of Shopian in Anantnang constituency.
In Assam's Kokrajhar constituency, an incident of mob violence left a policeman dead and two others injured. A supporter of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) was also killed in a clash with Congress workers at Nagarbera area under Guwahati constituency. 14 others were injured.
There were also sporadic incidents of violence in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, where villagers clashed with security forces in Dausa and torched a government vehicle.
"Polling was largely peaceful barring a few stray incidents,"deputy election commissioner Alok Sinha said at the end of polling.
A woman election officer died of heart failure in Thane, near Mumbai.
With Thursday's round of balloting, the polling ended in seven states and 349 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies.
Polling for the remaining 194 seats will be held on April 30 (89 seats), May 7 (64) and May 12 (41). The results will be declared on May 16.
The second-largest phase in terms of Lok Sabha seats, Thursday's polls sealed the fate of 2,076 candidates including Union ministers, sitting MPs and other high-profile contestants.
All 39 seats in Tamil Nadu and the lone seat in adjoining Puducherry voted Thursday.
The Tamil Nadu verdict is critical for chief minister J Jayalalithaa, who has vowed to play a key role in-government formation in the event of a hung parliament.
Tamil Nadu is also crucial for the BJP which formed a rainbow coalition with five regional parties in the hope of breaking its jinx in the southern state.
In the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, this round of polling will have a bearing on the prime ministerial ambitions of Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is in the fray from Mainpuri.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who exercised his franchise in Saifai (Etawah), said the SP was emerging stronger after every phase of polling.
Besdies Mulayam Singh Yadav, other stalwarts in the fray are chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's wife Dimple Yadav (Kannauj), foreign minister Salman Khursheed (Farrukhabad), Amar Singh (Fatehpur Sikiri) and Hema Malini (Mathura).
Prime minister Manmohan Singh, who is a Rajya Sabha MP from Assam since 1991, and his wife Gursharan Kaur cast their vote at the Dispur Government Higher Secondary School in Guwahati.
The high turn-out in Assam's six constituencies was remarkable given the fact that day-time temperatures rose above 40 degree Celsius in many places.
The biggest turnaround of the day, however, came in the glamour and entertainment capital Mumbai where voters finally shed some of their infamous polling-day sloth in the six constituencies of the city in the third and last phase of Lok Sabha elections in the state.
After recording just 35% voter turnout till 3pm, Mumbaikars notched up a 52.67% polling, an effective hike of nearly 11% over the 2009 mark.
It, perhaps, took a plea by the city's favourite son, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, to rouse the voters.
"I have voted, have you? A wonderful start to my birthday, as a responsible citizen of our great nation," the 41-year-old wrote on Twitter accompanied by a 'selfie' of his inked finger.
The 'Maximum City' made up for lost time in the last couple of hours, like Tendulkar's own acceleration in the dying stages of a one-day match.
(With inputs from agencies)
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Key candidates in fray
Here's a map for the constituencies going to polls on Thursday. On searching, you will get details of all parties fighting from a constituency and key candiates there: