Brisk voting was recorded till noon today in most of the 41 constituencies in three states during last phase of Lok Sabha polls in which the spotlight is on the high-profile contest in Varanasi where a controversy broke out over the Congress candidate sporting the party symbol.
Over nine crore voters are expected to vote to seal the fate of 606 candidates, including BJP’s Prime Ministerial nominee Narendra Modi and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal (both Varanasi) and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav (Azamgarh) in the ninth phase of polling in the states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar.
Voting was by and large peaceful except in West Bengal where 13 people were injured in a clash between CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress supporters in North 24 Parganas district.
In Uttar Pradesh, nearly 24 per cent voters exercised their franchise in the first few hours in 18 seats to decide the fate of 328 candidates including Modi, Yadav and Kejriwal.
A controversy broke out in Varanasi over Congress candidate Ajai Rai sporting his election symbol on his kurta.
As the BJP and Aam Aadmi Party sought action against him, the Election Commission directed the Varanasi Returning Officer to file an FIR or complaint against Rai for displaying his party symbol and talking to media at a polling booth amounting to “canvassing” which is barred on voting day.
In Chandauli there were complaints of pictures of SP leaders being displayed on laptops in the polling stations which were then removed.
A report from Maharajganj said that there were problems in polling machines in three polling stations of Nautenwa, Panera and Sadar even as a village in Ballia boycotted polls.
West Bengal recorded a good turnout till noon with over 41 per cent voters exercising their franchise in 17 Lok Sabha seats.
However, voting was marred by violence in Minakha Assembly segment of Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency where 13 people were injured in a clash between CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress supporters at Haroa Polling was being held in Berhampore, Krishnagar, Ranaghat, Bongaon, Barrackpore, Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata (South), Kolkata (North), Tamluk, Contai and Ghatal in West Bengal.
Altogether 188 candidates were in the fray, including TMC’s Sudip Bandyopadhyay in Kolkata North, Dinesh Trivedi in Barrackpore and Sougata Roy in Dum Dum, besides celebrities like Dipak Adhikari (Dev) in Ghatal and Tapas Paul in Krishnagar.
Bihar witnessed a voter turnout of about 31 per cent till noon. Film-maker Prakash Jha and former Union minister Raghubansh Prasad Singh are among the 90 candidates in the fray from the six seats of Bihar.
Counting of votes in all the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies will be taken up on May 16. An average of 66 per cent voters exercised their franchise in the last eight phases. The whole elections were spread over 35 days.