Amidst violence in Maoist-infested areas, a total of 65 per cent polling was recorded in 91 constituencies in the third phase of Lok Sabha elections held on Thursday, with Chandigarh witnessing a record 74 per cent.
Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Bihar witnessed Maoist-related violence, which left two CRPF jawans and one state police personnel dead. In some places, Left-wing extremists destroyed electronic voting machines (EVMs), while in Bihar voting in 22 booths was deferred after the polling party failed to reach the booths due to threat from ultras.
In this phase of polls, spread over 11 states and three Union Territories, the number of eligible voters was 11 crore. The turnout in the third phase was substantially higher compared to previous Lok Sabha (LS) elections in all these constituencies, Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi told reporters here.
The electoral fortunes of a total of 1,419 contestants, including several top leaders like Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Union ministers Kapil Sibal, Kamal Nath, Shashi Tharoor (all from Congress) and Ajit Singh of RLD, and former Army chief General V K Singh and Harsh Vardhan (both BJP) were sealed. With this exercise, polling in 104 out of 543 seats was completed.
Hazaribagh poll put off
Though on Thursday, polling was scheduled to be held in 92 segments, the EC postponed voting in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, to April 17.
Large contingents of Central armed forces have been deployed in Maoist-hit Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra, Bihar and communally-sensitive western Uttar Pradesh.
The 10 seats in Uttar Pradesh, which went to polls on Thursday, reported a record turnout of 65 per cent as compared to 51.30 per cent in the previous LS polls.
Muzaffarnagar and Shamli in Uttar Pradesh, which witnessed communal riots in August last year, recorded “above average” voter turnout of 67.78 per cent and 70.85 per cent, respectively.
The turnout in Delhi was 64 per cent, up by 12 per cent as against the 2009 elections.
All the 10 seats of Haryana had a single-phase poll. In the last elections, the turnout in Haryana was 68 per cent. “The turnout could be 73 per cent in Haryana when we get the final figures,” Deputy Election Commissioner Alok Shukla said.
Chandigarh constituency recorded the highest turnout of 74 per cent, against 64 per cent in 2009 polls, while Kerala recorded 73.4 per cent voter turnout, up from 73.2 per cent last time. Chhattisgarh's Bastar seat witnessed the lowest voter turnout of 51.4 per cent among the 91 seats. But it was higher as compared to 47.33 per cent recorded the previous time.
In Odisha, the Maoists snatched EVMs and took away the battery of one voting machine. The poll panel has decided to postpone polling in 22 places in Bihar — 19 in Jamui, two in Nawada and one in Gaya — as polling personnel were not sent there keeping in mind their safety.
Jharkhand's four seats witnessed 58 per cent turnout, which was higher than the 50.89 per cent recorded in the last general elections. Madhya Pradesh, where nine seats went to polls, saw an average turnout of 54.13 per cent.
The Jammu seat also saw an impressive turnout of 66.29 per cent —17 per cent higher than in 2009. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands also witnessed a record turnout. Till the last count, it was 67 per cent, higher than last time’s 64.15 per cent. But in Lakshadweep, the turnout was 71.34 per cent, lower than last time’s 85.98 per cent.
However, officials in the Election Commission maintained that the turnout could be “much higher” in all the seats as final reports were yet to come in with voting held in several places till 7 pm.
Figures of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls voting percentage in each segment, which went to polls on Thursday, are not available as EC officials are still preparing the comparison chart.