An elderly Indian voter shows her ink-marked finger after casting her vote at a polling station at Umsning under Ri-Bhoi district, in the northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya. India's gargantuan election, the biggest in history, kicked off on April 11 with Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking a second term from the South Asian behemoth's 900 million voters. Photograph: AFP
New Delhi: Polling took place in 91 constituencies spread across 18 states and two union territories in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections.
Voting was also conducted in 175 assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh, 32 in Sikkim and 28 seats in Odisha.
Polling in all the Lok Sabha constituencies of Andhra Pradesh (25), Telangana (17), Uttarakhand (5), Meghalaya (2) and Arunachal Pradesh (2) besides lone seats in Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur, Nagaland, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar, and Lakshadweep was held.
Eight seats in Uttar Pradesh, seven in Maharashtra, six in Bihar, five in Assam, four in Odisha, two each in Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal and one seat in Chhattisgarh are also going to polls.
Despite hot weather conditions, voters turned out in large numbers and polling was going on peacefully, an official of the state election department said.
Three Union ministers-- V K Singh (Ghaziabad), Satyapal Singh (Baghpat) and Mahesh Sharma (Gautam Buddha Nagar) are in the fray in the first phase.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is making all-out efforts to retain all the eight Lok Sabha seats while the fledgling Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance too is going whole hog to upset the saffron party's apple cart.
Joint Chief Electoral Officer Ramesh Chandra Rai said there was no report of any impersonation, bogus voting, obstruction to polling or violence from anywhere in these constituencies,
Ghaziabad recorded nearly 35 per cent polling, while in Meerut, Bijnor and Saharanpur the turnout was over 40 per cent.
Speaking to reporters in Muzaffarnagar, Baliyan said, "If someone comes in a burqa, whether the same person is coming four or five times, how will you check".
"Without checking the face, how can you allow anyone to cast vote," he asked.
"There were no women constables. If there is such a long queue of women voters and there is no woman official in the polling party, then male officials should check "the BJP leader said.
Reacting to it, UP Chief Electoral Officer L Venkateshwarlu said that women officials have been deployed to ascertain identity of women voters.
"Already there is a mechanism in place that district magistrates have deployed women officials to ascertain the identity of female voters. Wherever there are burqa-clad women voters, women poll officials are posted to ascertain their identity," he said.
The Congress slammed Baliyan for his remarks.
The communally sensitive seat of Muzaffarnagar is witnessing a clash of titans with RLD chief Ajit Singh locking horns with sitting BJP lawmaker Sanjeev Balyan.
For the saffron party, the Kairana parliamentary constituency holds immense significance as it had tasted defeat in the Lok Sabha by-election last year.
Politically crucial Uttar Pradesh sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. Of the 80 seats in UP, SP is contesting on 37 seats, BSP on 38 seats, and the RLD will contest on three seats. UP will have seven-phase polling.
Medak recorded the highest voter turnout at 54 per cent while Hyderabad registered just 20.59 per cent till 1 pm.
Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Governor E S L Narasimhan, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, TRS Working President KT Rama Rao, K Kavitha and AIMIM Chief Asaduddin Owaisi and film actors Chiranjeevi, Ram Charan, Allu Arjun, junior NTR and 'Baahubali' director SS Rajamouli were among the prominent people who cast their vote in their respective constituencies.
KCR, along with his wife cast his vote in Chintamadaka village in Siddipet district.
"Polling process is going on peacefully across Telangana," Telangana Chief Electoral Officer Rajat Kumar said.
Apollo Hospitals Group Executive Vice Chairperson Shobana Kamineni Thursday said her name was missing in the voters' list and described it as "worst day as an Indian citizen".
Rajat Kumar said as per the information he received from the Collector of Narayanpet district, as large number of people are participating in the funeral of the deceased and polling is expected to pick up momentum during the second half of the day.
The official further said 1.51 per cent of ballot units, 1.71 per cent of control units and 2.21 per cent of VVPATs were replaced during the mock polling before beginning of the actual polls in the morning.
Polling in 16 constituencies began at 7 am, while voting process in Nizamabad started an hour later.
State Chief Electoral Officer Gopal Krishna Dwivedi said there were some glitches in functioning of 381 EVMs which were rectified subsequently.
Police said a Telugu Desam Party worker and another belonging to the main opposition YSR Congress were killed on Thursday in a poll-related group clash in Anantapuramu district of Andhra Pradesh.
The clash occurred at Veerapuram village under Tadipatri Assembly constituency in the afternoon.
Another YSRC worker was also injured in the incident, the party alleged in a statement.
This is the first general election in the state after bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and creation of Telangana in June 2014.
According to a district election official, the Naxal-hit Gadchiroli-Chimur Lok Sabha seat witnessed 41.87 per cent voting in six hours since the commencement of polling at 7 am, while 32.02 per cent electorate cast their votes in Bhandara-Gondiya.
Besides, Chandrapur recorded 30.5 per cent polling till 1 am, followed by Wardha - 30.22 per cent, Nagpur - 27.47 per cent, Yavatmal-Washim - 26.09 per cent and and Ramtek (SC)- 23.19 per cent.
All these constituencies are located in the state's Vidarbha region.
An estimated 55.44 per cent of voters cast their ballots in the Cooch Behar (SC) constituency, while 56.45 per cent polling was recorded in the Alipurduar (ST) seat, till 1 pm, a senior official of the Election Commission said.
"Polling is taking place peacefully everywhere. We have not received any such complaints which could not be resolved," Additional Chief Electoral Officer Sanjay Basu said.
A total of 34,51,883 electorate in the two constituencies will decide the fate of 18 candidates.
Ghosh claimed that it could be part of a conspiracy to manipulate votes.
The ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and the BJP are the main contenders in the two north Bengal seats, while the CPI(M)-led Left Front and the Congress are fighting to prove their existence.
Left Party constituent Forward Bloc is contesting from Cooch Behar and RSP in Alipurduar.
"As per reports received from the constituencies, approximately 41 per cent of the electorate have cast their vote till 1 pm," Chief Electoral Officer Surendra Kumar said.
Polling was in progress in a peaceful manner, he said.
The CEO said that technical glitches were noticed in EVMs and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail in several booths, but sectoral officers replaced the defective machines within 30 to 40 minutes.
In a booth located atop a hill in an inaccessible area of Nuapada district, the poll personnel took quick steps to replace a defective EVM, he said.
To a query about voters boycotting election at Kotpad in Koraput district over some local problems, the CEO said efforts were being made to convince them to exercise their democratic right.
While polling will be held in 8 assembly segments till 6 pm, voting will end at 4 pm in 20 Maoist-affected constituencies, the CEO said.
Voting began at 7 am in Jammu Lok Sabha constituency amid tight security and has been peaceful so far. Voters in Samba, Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch districts queued up early in the morning to exercise their franchise, officials said.
According to the Election Commission, 34.60 per cent voter turnout was recorded in Aurangabad, 33 per cent in Gaya, 37 per cent in Nawada and 29 per cent in Jamui, till 1 pm.
Incidents of poll boycott were reported from some places in Jamui and Nawada constituencies while the police recovered three bombs, including a cane bomb.
Voting at a polling station of Nawada Lok Sabha seat was withheld for some time following the arrest of a polling officer who was found in a drunken state, official sources said.
Polling resumed at the booth after he was arrested, the sources said.
A cane bomb was found from a polling station in Aurangabad Lok Sabha constituency just before voting began.
Two bombs were found beneath Nevta bridge on Imamganj-Raniganj main road falling under Imamganj assembly constituency. The bombs were later defused.
The fate of six candidates for the Lok Sabha seat would be decided by an electorate of 7,78,777. Three nominees are in the fray in the assembly bypoll.
Polling will continue till 5 pm.
At least three persons were seriously injured in a clash between supporters of two rival political parties under Tali assembly constituency in Kurung Kumey district of Arunachal Pradesh during polling on Thursday, police said.
Polling personnel were not among the injured and voting was underway, an election official said.
District Electoral Officer Santosh Kumar Rai said the clash occurred between supporters of two political parties, outside a polling booth at Pipsorang.
The DEO, however, could not give details about the political parties whose supporters were involved in the clash as phone connectivity in the area is very bad.
Meanwhile, the voter turnout in the state was 40.34 per cent till 1pm, Additional Chief Electoral Officer Kangki Darang said.
There were reports of EVMs developing technical snags from several districts but the election authorities replaced the machines immediately and voting was not disturbed, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer Liken Koyu said.
Voting is underway in 57 assembly seats and two Lok Sabha constituencies.
A voter turnout of 41.27 per cent has been recorded in Uttarakhand till 1 pm where polling is being held in all its five Lok Sabha seats in the first of the seven-phase general elections.
The fate of 52 candidates will be decided by over 78 lakh voters of the state, where all the five seats -- Tehri, Pauri, Haridwar, Almora and Nainital -- are being held by the BJP.
Polling began at 7 am and there was 41.27 per cent polling in Uttarakhand by 1 pm, Chief Electoral Officer Saujanya said, adding Tehri recorded 40.60 per cent polling, Pauri 38.51 per cent, Almora 36.70 per cent, Nainital 48.02 per cent and Haridwar 48.67 per cent.
The saffron party is locked in straight contests with the Congress on all seats.
High-profile candidates in the fray are ex-chief minister Harish Rawat who takes on state BJP chief Ajay Bhatt in Nainital, ex-CM Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank who faces Congress's Ambrish Kumar in Haridwar, BJP national secretary Tirath Singh Rawat is up against B C Khanduri's son Manish in Pauri and sitting MPs Ajay Tamta (Lok Sabha) and Pradeep Tamta (Rajya Sabha) in Almora.