Jaipur:  Nearly a third of the 34 million voters in Rajasthan’s 20 Lok Sabha constituencies cast their ballots by noon  Thursday, with people turning up early at the polling booths before the sun began to beat down on them.

Over 29 percent of more than 3.45 crore voters had cast their votes in the first five hours of balloting in the first phase of Rajasthan election for 20 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats.

The first phase voting is taking place in Jaipur, Jaipur rural, Sikar, Jhunjhunu, Churu, Bikaner, Nagaur, Jodhpur, Barmer, Jalore, Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Sri Ganganagar, Bhilwara, Ajmer, Rajsamand, Pali, Kota, Jhalawar and Banswara constituencies.

Long queues were seen since early morning and in some places  people were seen standing in front of polling booths even before start of the voting.

“The polling has been peaceful so far and is expected to pick up later in the afternoon. As per tentative information from across the state, over 29.30 percent of voters have cast their votes till noon,” an election department official told IANS.

The maximum polling of 37.46 percent was reported from Sri Ganganagar constituency while Jhunjhunu reported the lowest of only 21.91 percent till noon.

In 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the state recorded over 48.46 percent voter turnout.

Reports of problems in EVMs came in from some districts, where the machines were repaired or changed.

Earlier in the morning, polling started amid tight vigil by security forces.

“The voting began at 7 a.m. at over 38,220 polling stations spread in these 20 constituencies. We have made elaborate security arrangements for peaceful polls,” an election official here told IANS.

In all, over 80,000 security personnel have been deployed.

The political fate of 239 candidates is being decided Thursday.

Among these are Sachin Pilot, C.P. Joshi, Girja Vyas, Chandresh Kumari and Jitendra Singh of the Congress, and Sanwar Lal Jat, a minister in Vasundhara Raje government, and Olympic silver-medalist shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore of the BJP, and Jaswant Singh and Buta Singh who are contesting as Independents.

The Congress and the BJP are fighting for all 20 seats, while the Aam Aami Party is contesting 17, and the Bahujan Samaj Party 18 seats.

The state is witnessing a keen tussle between the BJP and the Congress. In the last Lok Sabha polls, the Congress won 20 seats and the Bharatiya Janata Party four, and one seat was won by an Independent.

It has normally been a two-party contest in the state.

This time, however, the AAP and Mayawati’s BSP are trying to make a dent in the vote banks of both the major parties.

While during campaigning the Congress raised the issue of development, the BJP spoke about corruption and bad governance.

The BJP also targeted the United Progressive Alliance government at the centre on price-rise and its inability to curb corruption.

Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, and BJP’s state unit president Ashok Parnami were among the first to cast their votes THursday morning.

“We are sure of winning all 25 seats,” said Raje after casting her vote.

Parnami said the people are voting for the BJP this time as they are fed up with bad governance of the UPA government.

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