Moderate to brisk voting was today recorded in the first five hours of polling across 12 states covering 121 constituencies in the fifth phase – the biggest of the nine-phased Lok Sabha polls amidst Maoist violence in Jharkhand where rebels injured a CRPF jawan, blew up a railway track and exploded ten bombs.
About 30 per cent of 16.61 crore cast their vote till noon in this phase in which 1,769 candidates including Nandan Nilekani (Cong), Maneka Gandhi, former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda (JD-S), Union Ministers Veerappa Moily (Cong) and Srikant Jena, Supriya Sule and Lalu Prasad's eldest daughter Misa Bharti are in the fray.
Viewed as a high stakes day by both BJP and its allies, which hold 46 seats and Congress and its partners having 43 seats, today's polling may decide which party will lead the race to form the next government.
In Uttar Pradesh, over 27.44 per cent voters exercised their franchise till 11 AM. Polling is going on on 11 seats in the second phase to decide fate of 150 candidates, including Maneka Gandhi, Santosh Gangwar, Saleem Sherwani and Begum Noor Bano.
In Karnataka, voting began on a moderate to brisk note in the single-phase elections for all the 28 Lok Sabha seats.
Former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa (Shimoga) and Moily (Chikkaballapur) were among the early voters, as voting began with about 4.62 crore voters eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 435 candidates.
BJP has lodged a complaint with electoral officials against Chief Minister Siddaramaiah alleging that he had violated the model code of conduct.
Barring reports of Naxal violence in some places in Jharkhand, polling has been peaceful, poll officials said.
An estimated 12.74 per cent voters exercised their franchise till 9 AM in the second phase of polling for six Lok Sabha constituencies in Jharkhand.
Passenger train services were hit in Bokaro district where Maoists blew up a stretch of railway track.
The rebels damaged the tracks between Dania railway station in Bokaro and Jageshwar station of Bihar under South Eastern Railway, Superintendent of Police Jitendra Kumar Singh said.
A report from Giridih in Jharkhand said Maoists exploded ten bombs at separate places in Giridih Lok Sabha constituency where polling is on.
"Seven bombs were exploded serially near Bistuur under Pirtand police station around 8.30 AM. All the security and polling personnel are safe," Superintendent of Police Kranti Kumar.
Three Naxal-hit constituencies of Chhattisgarh saw about 30 per cent of electorate cast their votes in the first four hours of polling.
In Odisha, around 15 per cent voters exercised their franchise during first three hours for the simultaneous second and last phase election to 11 Lok Sabha and 77 Assembly constituencies.
Among the early voters were Assam Governor J B Patnaik and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik as brisk polling was witnessed in several areas.
While polling was in progress in a peaceful manner in the constituencies spread over 13 districts in coastal and northern Odisha, reports of delay in voting were received from some places due to problems in EVMs.
Repolling is also being held in 22 booths spread over eight Assembly segments in the state where polling was stalled due to various reasons, including snatching of EVMs, during the first phase of voting on April 10.
In Bihar, about 14 per cent voting was recorded today in first three hours of polling on seven Parliamentary seats.
Though no untoward incident has been reported so far, voting in four booths in Munger Lok Sabha seat have been adjourned due to suspicion of presence of landmine, Election Commission sources said.
There have been reports of irregularities in EVM machines in Patna, Jehanabad, Munger and other places which were addressed and voting has resumed, the EC sources said.
RJD President Lalu Prasad along with wife Rabri Devi cast their vote at a polling booth at Veterinary college. Their daughter Misa Bharti, who is in the fray from Patliputra seat, also exercised her franchise at Veterinary college booth.
Former Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi cast vote at Rajendra nagar booth.
Nearly 29 per cent of the 60,33,310 voters in four Parliamentary constituencies of West Bengal cast their votes till 10 AM in the first phase of Lok Sabha polls in the state.
Reports of malfunctioning of five EVMs each were received from Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar constituencies.
Brisk voting was witnessed in Rajasthan where over 30 per cent of the voters exercised their franchise till noon in 20 of the 25 Parliamentary seats.
Nineteen Lok Sabha constituencies in Maharashtra, where polling is being held in the second phase of election in the state, recorded an average 17.84 per cent voter turnout till 11 AM.
11.46 per cent voters exercised their right to franchise till 10.30 AM in Madhya Pradesh, where polling is on for 10 Lok Sabha seats in the second phase, amid reports of poll boycott in a few seats.
Poll boycott was called in Bhuri Shahpur village under Damoh constituency on the issue of poor development work, and at Pathara village in Tikmagarh seat as no survey of hail-hit crops was carried out.
However, polling started in other Lok Sabha seats after initial call of boycott, Madhya Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer Jaideep Govind said.
So far polling has been held in 111 constituencies in four phases. In the last substantial round 91 seats went to polls on April 10. With today's polling, the 232 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies have been covered. The remaining four phases will be on April 24, April 30, May 7 and May 12.
Counting of votes will take place on May 16.