Polling in the first phase of elections to Lok Sabha began on a moderate note on Thursday during which the fate of Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president K Chandrasekar Rao will be decided.
Voting began on Thursday morning in 124 constituencies spread across 15 states and two union territories in the first round of the five-phase elections and would end at 1700 hrs in most places, except in Naxal-infested areas where it would close at 1500 hrs.
Over 14.31 crore voters are eligible to cast their ballot on Thursday across 1.85 lakh polling stations set up by the Election Commission and secured by tens of thousands of police personnel.
Elections to 154 Assembly segments in Andhra Pradesh and 70 in Orissa are also being held on Thursday.
While all 20 seats in Kerala, 11 in Chhattisgarh and two each in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya are going to polls in a single phase today, polling is being held in 13 out of 40 seats in Bihar, 16 out of 80 in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra 13 (48), Andhra Pradesh 22 (42), Jharkhand 6 (14), Orissa 10 (21), Assam 3 (14), Manipur 1 (2) and Jammu and Kashmir 1 (6).
The lone seats in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Mizoram and Nagaland are also covered in the first phase.
Elections to all the 543 constituencies would be completed on 13 May and counting will take place on 16 May.
The official spending on the general elections involving thousands of candidates and millions of voters (714 million registered electorate) is pegged at Rs1,300 crore, but think-tank Centre for Media Studies expects the combined spending by government and candidates to exceed Rs10,000 crore ($2 billion).
The campaigning was mostly peaceful but verbally violent, with even the mild-mannered Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launching a scathing attack on the opposition, particularly BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani.
BJP leader Varun Gandhi’s alleged hate-speech in the Lok Sabha constituency of Pilibhit remains the highlight of campaign lows.