Barring the Kashmir Valley, millions voted Thursday across a dozen states in India to elect 117 MPs even as the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi filed his nomination in Varanasi, turning the Hindu holy city into a sea of saffron.
About 40 percent of the 180 million eligible to vote Thursday had exercised their franchise by 3 p.m. — in the eight hours since balloting started — in 201,735 polling centres in 11 states and Puducherry.
The Election Commission said the entire exercise went on smoothly. However, in Assam, a policeman was killed in Kokrajhar constituency when a mob stoned security personnel.
The least voting took place in Anantnag in the Kashmir Valley where just 15 percent had voted even by midday. Only one percent of the voters turned out in three places in Anantnag to vote.
Balloting was also low in Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital where senior politicians, industrialists, Bollywood actors and the commoners stood in the same queues to vote.
Actors who voted early asked fellow Indian to vote without fail. “I cast my vote. So must every Indian who is eligible. Be responsible,” actor John Abraham tweeted.
But both in Mumbai and elsewhere in Maharasthra, where polling took place in 19 constituencies, Muslims came out in large numbers to vote amid BJP’s claims of a nationwide “Modi wave”.
Actors Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan as well as Chief Minister Jayalalithaa were among those who voted early in Tamil Nadu, all of whose 39 seats went to the polls Thursday.
Both AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa and her West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress hope to garner most Lok Sabha seats in their states to play a major role in the event of a hung parliament.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flew to Assam to vote, and claimed there was no “Modi wave” in the country.
“I have not seen any Modi wave sweeping the country. The Modi wave is only a creation of the media,” he said.
The maximum voting took place in West Bengal, where a staggering 70 percent braved the soaring mercury to vote by 3 p.m. The Congress alleged bogus voting in the state.
Among the star contestants in the state are President Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijit Mukherjee (Jangipur).
The states which saw polling Thursday were Tamil Nadu (39 seats), Maharashtra (19), Uttar Pradesh (12), Madhya Pradesh (10), Chattisgarh and Bihar (seven each), West Bengal and Assam (six each), Rajasthan (five) and Jharkhand (four) and Jammu and Kashmir as well as Puducherry (one each).
In Varanasi, cheered by thousands of supporters, Modi filed his nomination papers for the Lok Sabha battle that will pit him against AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and Ajay Rai of the Congress.
A mass of Bharatiya Janata Party activists, many waving party flags and sporting saffron caps, as well as residents walked with Modi as his open vehicle crawled through the streets to the district magistrate’s office.
With Thursday’s round of balloting — three more are to take place, and the results will be declared May 16 — the Lok Sabha election has ended in seven states.