New Delhi: Voting for the marathon seven-phased Lok Sabha elections came to a close on Sunday as nearly 64 per cent turnout was recorded in the the last phase of polls in 59 seats, which also featured Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency Varanasi. In the 2014 general elections, the highest ever voter turnout of 66.40 per cent was recorded.
Over 8,000 candidates were in fray for 542 Lok Sabha seats across the country this year. Polling in Vellore seat in Tamil Nadu was deferred due to excessive use of cash. An average of 66.88 per cent voters exercised their franchise in the last six phases and the entire polls were spread over 38 days.
Counting of votes will be taken up on May 23. Incidents of violence in West Bengal and clashes in Punjab were reported Sunday in the last phase which also saw EVM glitches and poll boycott at some booths. The fate of 918 candidates was decided in this phase.
Voting took place in 13 seats of Punjab and an equal number of seats in Uttar Pradesh, nine in West Bengal, eight seats each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, four in Himachal Pradesh, three in Jharkhand and the lone seat Chandigarh. In Uttar Pradesh, 56.84 per cent voting was recorded in 13 Lok Sabha seats, officials said.
The turnout in Varanasi was 58.05 per cent, while in Gorakhpur, it was 57.38 per cent, the Election Commission said. The highest turnout was 62.40 per cent in Maharajganj, while Ballia reported the lowest turnout of 52.50 per cent.
Violence erupted in Chandauli Lok Sabha constituency, where state BJP chief Mahendra Nath Pandey is seeking re-election, when supporters of the saffron party and the Samajwadi Party clashed. A report from Chandauli said the fingers of Dalits had been inked before they could actually cast their vote in Tara Jivanpur village under Alinagar police station.
Officials said an FIR was registered in the matter. There were also reports of poll boycott from certain places in Gorakhpur, Mirzapur, Varanasi and Mau. Incidents of violence were reported in West Bengal where 73.51 per cent of over 1.49 crore electorate exercised their franchise in nine Lok Sabha seats.
According to BJP's North Kolkata candidate Rahul Sinha, a crude bomb was hurled near Girish Park in the constituency around noon. Police, however, said crackers were burst in the area, and polling was underway peacefully. In Kolkata south, TMC candidate Mala Roy alleged that she was stopped from entering polling booths.
Sporadic clashes were reported in Kolkata and its surrounding areas, with TMC workers claiming that voters were being intimidated by central forces outside booths.
BJP candidate Nilanjan Roy in Diamond Harbour constituency alleged that his car was vandalized in Budge Budge area. Similar reports also came in from Jadavpur constituency, where BJP candidate Anupam Hazra's car came under the attack of unidentified men. "Polling has by and large been peaceful in the nine seats. There have been no complaints of any violence from any of the polling booths," an election official told PTI. "There were also reports of EVM glitches in several polling stations. We have sent reserve EVMs to booths, where the voting process was temporarily hampered due to technical glitches," he added. There were reports of clashes, allegedly between the BJP and TMC activists, from Kankinada under the Bhatpara Assembly seat where a bypoll was underway. The Barrackpore Police Commissionerate deployed Rapid Action Force (RAF) to control the situation there, a senior polling official said.
Punjab saw a polling percentage of 59 per cent in 13 Lok Sabha seats. In Chandigarh seat, about 64 per cent turnout was registered. Maximum polling percentage was witnessed at 64.18 in Patiala and the lowest was in Amritsar at 52.47.
In the morning, there were some reports of technical glitches in EVMs at several places including Ludhiana, Samana and Moga. Punjab's Chief Electoral Officer S Karuna Raju said eight ballot units, 13 control units, and eight voter-verified paper audit trail have been replaced. There were also reports of clashes between Congress and Akali Dal workers in Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda, Moga and Sangrur.
At Talwandi Sabo, Akalis alleged that shots were also fired by ruling party workers. In Himachal Pradesh, around 68 per cent turnout was recorded in four Lok Sabha seats where five MLAs, including a state minister, are among the 45 candidates in the fray.
A turnout of 132 per cent was recorded in the world's highest polling station in Lahaul and Spiti district's Tashigang village, a district official said. EVM snags delayed voting at nine polling stations and voting restarted after the faulty EVMs were replaced. In Madhya Pradesh, 71.15 per cent voter turnout was recorded in eight Lok Sabha seats.
Bihar witnessed 53.55 per cent voting in eight Lok Sabha seats. Private security guards of RJD leader Tej Pratap Yadav beat up a couple of photo journalists in a polling station in Patna after one of them allegedly smashed the windscreen of the former Bihar minister's vehicle, enraged after the car crushed the toes of a fellow lensman.
Voting process was temporarily hampered at few polling stations in Ara, Sasaram, Jehanabad, Pataliputr and Buxar, but officials redressed all grievances, a poll official said.
In neighbouring Jharkhand, over 70.54 per cent of the total 45,64,681 voters exercised their franchise in three Lok Sabha seats. In the last phase of Lok Sabha polls, over 10.01 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise....