New Delhi, May 7 :
With the Lok Sabha battle getting increasingly bitter, millions voted Wednesday in 64 constituencies across seven states, with sporadic violence reported mainly from Andhra Pradesh.
Barring Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir, all other constituencies saw brisk balloting from the time polling started at 7 a.m. By midday, there were long queues of men and women at most places.
Election Commission officials reported “very high polling” in West Bengal’s six seats — 60 percent in the first six hours — and “brisk” to “high” polling everywhere else. Balloting was sluggish in Baramulla.
One of the most keenly watched fights Wednesday is in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh where Congress leader and outgoing MP Rahul Gandhi faces a strong challenge from BJP’s Smriti Irani and AAP’s Kumar Vishwas.
In a clear indication that he is taking the opposition seriously, Rahul Gandhi visited Amethi for the first time on any polling day ever since he was elected from there a decade ago.
Along with the general election, polling is also Wednesday for 175 assembly seats in Seemandhra region, which will eventually go over to the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh.
About 20 people were injured as clashes erupted between rival party activists in parts of Seemandhra, including Anantapur, Kadapa, Chittoor, Guntur and Prakasam districts. Three police vehicles were set ablaze in Kadapa, a traditional trouble spot during elections.
In Baramulla, the fear of separatists and Tuesday’s militant attacks kept most voters indoors. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is trying to snatch the Baramulla seat from the ruling National Conference.
But there was brisk polling in Kashmir’s other constituency Ladakh, a Buddhist dominated region. It is also the country’s largest parliamentary constituency.
A total of 897 candidates are fighting it out in the 64 seats: Andhra Pradesh (25), Uttar Pradesh (15), Bihar (7), West Bengal (6), Uttarakhand (5), Himachal Pradesh (4) and Jammu and Kashmir (2).
The opposition alleged vote rigging and intimidation by activists of the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, where polling was unsually high even by national standards.
Officials said over 60 percent of the 88 lakh electorate had voted within six hours.
The battle for Lok Sabha 2014 has become vocally bitter, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is determined to unseat the Congress, and others locked in a no-holds-barred campaign.
Even as polling continued in Bihar’s seven seats, BJP’s prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi told an election rally in Valmikinagar that the Congress was on the run.
Dwelling on an emotive issue, Modi denounced the Congress-led UPA government for not hitting back after Pakistani troops beheaded Indian soldiers along the Jammu and Kashmir border.
Wednesday is the penultimate round of the 10-leg parliamentary election that began April 7 and will end May 12. The millions of votes cast across India will be counted May 16.