New Delhi, April 18:
Nearly 100 million people voted in 12 Indian states Thursday in the sixth round of parliamentary election to pick 121 MPs in a battle vital for all major stakeholders.
Despite stray incidents of violence and intimidation, the mammoth exercise involving 1,767 contestants across the length and breadth of the country passed off peacefully, the Election Commission said.
Official estimates at the end of 11 hours of balloting showed that at least 50 percent of the 197 million electorate voted Thursday. Polling in the lone Manipur seat ended at 4 p.m.
Throughout the day, most of the 225,387 polling centres saw long queues of men and women eager to vote. Only Bhind in Madhya Pradesh and Kanker in Chhattisgarh reported thin crowds.
By the time voting ended, both the ruling Congress and a resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed they were on the winning track, with the Congress dismissing claims of “a wave” in favour of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Thursday’s election covered a vast part of India — from Jammu and Kashmir in the north to Karnataka in the south, from Maharashtra along the west coast to West Bengal in the east.
Polling took place in all 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka, 20 of the 25 in Rajasthan, 19 of the 48 in Maharashtra, 11 each in Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, 10 in Madhya Pradesh, seven in Bihar, six in Jharkhand, four in West Bengal, three in Chhattisgarh and one seat each in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir.
Simultaneous balloting was held for 77 of the 147 assembly seats in Odisha and two assembly constituencies in West Bengal.
With Thursday’s round, polling has been completed in 232 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha where two Anglo-Indians are nominated.
Thursday saw the largest number of Lok Sabha seats in contention on any day since the staggered balloting began April 7. Four more rounds of voting are due until May 12.
The BJP claimed it was confident of winning most seats in Thursday’s battle.
“We are sure of winning all 25 seats (in Rajasthan),” Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje said in Jaipur.
Former central minister Ananth Kumar voiced confidence about the BJP’s ability to do well in Karnataka, where it is the main opposition party to the ruling Congress.
Central ministers Sushilkumar Shinde and Jyotiraditya Scindia brushed aside the BJP’s claims.
“There is no Modi wave,” Scindia said after voting in Guna in Madhya Pradesh. Shinde said in Sholapur: “There is no Modi wave here, only Shinde wave.”
Early voters included Ananth Kumar (Bangalore South), Jaswant Singh (Barmer), Sachin Pilot (Ajmer), Ashok Chavan (Nanded), Misha Bharti (Pataliputra), Supriya Sule (Baramati) and B.S. Yeddyurappa (Shimoga).
Other prominent candidates in the fray included Ghulam Nabi Azad (Udhampur), Maneka Gandhi (Pilibhit), Shatrughan Sinha (Patna Sahib), M. Veerappa Moily (Chikkaballapur), Nandan Nilekani (Bangalore South), Sushilkumar Shinde (Solapur), Gopinath Munde (Beed), V. Balakrishnan (Banglaore Central), and S.S. Ahluwalia and Bhaichung Bhutia (Darjeeling).
About 1.37 million staff oversaw the polling.
The millions of votes cast across the country will be counted May 16 – to know which party or coalition will get to rule India the next five years.