Largest phase of polls records modest voting

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Fate of Nilekani, Maneka, Moily & Jaswant sealed

Largest phase of polls  records modest voting
Moderate to high turn­out marked polling in the fifth and biggest round of Lok Sabha elections on Thursday, that covered 121 seats across 12 states.

Voters sealed the political fate of leaders like Nandan Nilekani (Congress), Maneka Gandhi (BJP), M Veerappa Moily (Congress), Jaswant Singh (independent) and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda (JD-S), among others, in this round.

An electorate of 16.61 crore was eligible to exercise their franchise on Thursday in 28 seats in Karnataka, 20 in Rajasthan, 19 in Maharashtra, 11 each in Uttar Pradesh and Odisha, 10 in Madhya Pradesh, seven in Bihar, six in Jharkhand, four in West Bengal, three in Chhattisgarh and one each in Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur. Of the total seats, Congress held 36 while its main challenger BJP had 40.

Stray incidents of violence, including blasts, marred voting at places in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh in which four people, including three security personnel, were injured.

With the completion of polling in the fifth phase, the exercise crossed the halfway mark in the nine-phased elections for the 543-member Lok Sabha.

Polling was completed in 111 seats in the previous phases in which voter turnout in most states was higher than that of 2009, which political observers read as a signal of an anti-incumbency wave against the Congress-led UPA government.

Four constituencies in West Bengal, which has 39 seats, recorded the highest turnout of 78.89 per cent in this round. It was still lower compared with the 80.85 per cent voting in the last general election in 2009, but polling officials said the figure might go up as final figures were still being computed.

In Bihar’s seven constituencies, the turnout was 56 per cent compared with 39.3 per cent in the 2009 election. An impressive 63.44 per cent voting was recorded in the three constituencies of Chhattisgarh, compared with 57.60 per cent last time.

Karnataka, which went for a single-phase poll, also recorded a high turnout of 68 per cent, nearly 10 per cent higher than 58.88 per cent recorded in the last national election. A good show in Karnataka can help the Congress check the BJP’s perceived surge nationally. In the previous Lok Sabha poll, BJP had won 18 seats in the state. However, it is seen to be struggling this time.

The Congress defeated the BJP in last year’s assembly polls, ending the saffron party’s rule in its only power centre down south. Bangalore watched a keenly-contested battle between Congress candidate Nandan Nilekani and BJP veteran Ananth Kumar.

Ten constituencies that went to poll in Madhya Pradesh didn’t see brisk voting, but the 54.41 per cent turnout was better than the 46.2 per cent polling in the 2009 election.

Voting took place in 19 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra, where the turnout was slightly better than the 2009 election at 54.67 per cent.

Thursday’s voting decided the fate of 358 candidates in the state, including that of Union minister Sushilkumar Shinde and former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan (both Congress) and senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde.

Odisha, which went for simultaneous polling for the 11 Lok Sabha and 77 assembly seats, saw 70 per cent voting against 66.28 per cent in the 2009 general elections. Rajasthan’s 20 constituencies recorded impressive turnout at 63.25 per cent compared with 48.09 per cent in the last election.

Voters turned out in large numbers in Uttar Pradesh’s 11 constituencies, which recorded 62.52 per cent voting compared with 55.09 per cent in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. The polling decided the fate of 150 candidates, including Maneka Gandhi, Santosh Gangwar, Saleem Sherwani and Begum Noor Bano.

In Jharkhand’s six constituencies, 62 per cent of voters came out to exercise their franchise. The turnout was 58 per cent in the last LS election.

In Manipur Inner constituency, the turnout was an impressive 74 per cent and it was likely to go up further. It was 77 per cent in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur constituency recorded 69.08 per cent voting, which was 24 per cent higher than 45.15 per cent recorded in the previous Lok Sabha polls.

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