Voters in seven states - led by a record-breaking West Bengal and Seemandhra - raked up impressive numbers as the penultimate round of the Lok Sabha elections concluded on Wednesday.
Millions of voters across 64 constituencies formed serpentine queues to elect their representatives from among 897 candidates in the fray.
West Bengal improved its 2009 voting percentage in the six seats which went to the polls on Wednesday, reaching 81%. In 2009, the same six seats had returned a figure of 78%.
Amethi, the most watched of the 64 seats that voted in Phase 8 of the elections, witnessed high drama as sitting MP Rahul Gandhi was greeted with slogans of 'Har Har Modi', got into a verbal scrap with a voter and was less than pleased after seeing a "lotus election symbol on a black board" at one polling booth.
That wasn't all. The BJP also accused the Congress vice-president of violating election rules by entering the voting compartment of a booth while his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's aide, Priti Sahai, was asked to leave Amethi following a heated argument with BJP candidate Smriti Irani. Irani claimed Sahai didn't have the authority to be there and the district magistrate asked Sahai to leave.
The Gandhi family bastion saw 55.56% of the electorate come out to vote - almost 10% higher than in 2009. This was the trend overall as turnouts in all seven states going to polls went past 2009 figures. The voting percentage for the 502 Lok Sabha seats covered in eight rounds thus far stands at 66.27%, a big improvement from 57.94% in 2009. If the trend continues in the final phase on May 12, it would be the highest ever polling India has seen in a general elections - breaking the 64% record set in 1984-85.
A photograph of Rahul standing in a voting compartment with a voter was uploaded by AAP, which demanded action against him. It was one of 60 complaints filed by AAP regarding polls in Amethi and most were found to be false by the EC.
But deputy election commission Vinod Zutshi said entering a voting compartment was a violation of election rules and a complaint in this regard would be examined.
The Congress, in turn, accused Irani of breaking the rules by campaigning inside a polling station. She left soon after the EC intervened.
On his tour of polling booths, Rahul was asked aggressively by a youth in a saffron scarf, "What is the point of coming to the village on polling day after 10 years?" To this, Rahul retorted, "Go and work for the BJP," sensing the man was leading a group of locals working for the saffron party. The group started shouting 'Har Har Modi' and continued to do so till the Congress vice-president left.
Rahul also said he would draw the attention of the EC to the lotus drawing, saying display of the BJP's election symbol was a violation of the model code of conduct.
Polling in UP’s other 14 Lok Sabha seats was largely uneventful and overall voting in the state was recorded at 55.52% compared to 43.37% in 2009.
In Seemandhra (coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema), around 76% voting was reported as the region voted for the last as part of united Andhra Pradesh. The new state of Telangana - where polling was held on April 30 - will come into being on June 2.
Police opened fire in the air to disperse a group of YSR Congress workers who allegedly tried to forcibly remove a poll agent from a booth in Guntur.
A few stray incidents were also reported in Kadapa district besides few incidents of stone pelting between rival party workers at a few places. Two vehicles were damaged during the clashes.
The stakes are high for YS Jaganmohan Reddy's YSR Congress while the BJP is hopeful of a strong showing in partnership with N Chandrababu Naidu's TDP.
Uttarakhand notched up around 62% voting during the single-day polling in all five seats.
In Himachal Pradesh, around 65% polling was recorded overall with brisk balloting on its four Lok Sabha seats and in the by-poll for one assembly seat.
In Bihar, where polling is being held for six seats, 58% voting was recorded while in Uttar Pradesh, 55.5% polling was recorded overall.
In Bihar the focus of this round is on Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad's comeback bid. His wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi is in the fray in Saran, where the BJP has fielded Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
After casting her vote, Rabri Devi declared that "the RJD-led alliance will win all 40 seats in Bihar."
In West Bengal, actor Moon Moon Sen, playback singer Babul Supriyo are in the fray. Sen, a Trinamool Congress candidate, is up against CPM's Basudeb Acharia, a nine-time MP, in Bankura.
The volatile Baramulla constituency of North Kashmir saw 39.6% voters defy the poll boycott call to exercise their franchise. The turnout is only a few notches below 2009's 41.8%.
The turnout of voters in the constituency where the sitting MP of the ruling National Conference Shariffudin Shariq is being challenged by the PDP's Muzaffar Beig, however, remained mixed.
While militancy-hit areas like Kupwara, Handwara and Sonawari and frontier areas like Uri and Tangdar saw brisk polling, Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru's shadow hung over parts of Baramulla, especially the apple town of Sopore. Also the home town of hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Sopore registered a mere 1% polling.
This phase will mark the completion of more than 92% of voting in the Indian elections - that is 502 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats -- which will enter the home stretch leading up to the final phase of polling on May 12 in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.
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