Hundreds of thousands cast their vote Saturday in four states in the fifth phase of elections, marking the halfway mark in India's 10-phase staggered polling.
Till now, over 170 million people have cast their vote across the country in 111 constituencies to choose from more than 1,500 candidates in the elections that began April 7 and will end May 12. Counting takes place May 16.
On Saturday, balloting took place in three constituencies of Assam, two seats of Goa, Tripura's second Lok Sabha constituency and Sikkim's lone parliamentary constituency. Sikkim also saw assembly elections. The voter turnout was high in all the four states and electioneering was largely peaceful. Dhirendra Ojha, director in the Election Commission, said in Delhi that Tripura's second Lok Sabha seat recorded a voter turnout of 81.8%, while Sikkim recorded 76% voter turnout.
Both of Goa's seats and Assam's three seats saw 75% balloting, said Ojha. Goa, known the world over for its beaches, saw brisk polling with queues forming at the polling stations since morning.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, after casting his vote, said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would win both seats and that voters have come out in large numbers to vote out the corrupt Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. "Goa does not see lines like these in the Lok Sabha election otherwise," he said. The state has over a million voters.
The main contenders for the North Goa seat are sitting MP and BJP candidate Shripad Yesso Naik, Congress candidate Ravi Naik and Dattaram Desai from the Aam Aadmi Party.
Aleixo Reginaldo from the Congress and BJP's Narendra Savoikar will fight it out for the South Goa seat, which the Congress has won in 10 out of 14 Lok Sabha elections.
Enthusiastic voter turnout was also seen for Tripura's second Lok Sabha seat. "Balloting took place in Tripura East (reserved) constituency with no untoward incident.... The polling was absolutely peaceful," Tripura chief electoral officer Ashutosh Jindal told IANS.
Long queues of men and women voters, including tribals, were seen in most of the 1,490 polling stations. Six of them are all women polling stations manned by women polling personnel only.
With majority tribals, over 1.13 million voters - half of whom are women - were eligible to exercise their franchise to elect their Lok Sabha member from among the 12 candidates, including two women.
In Saturday's polling, the main battle is between Communist Party of India-Marxist's Jitendra Choudhury and Sachitra Debbarma of the Congress.
Others in the fray include Parikshit Debbarma (Bharatiya Janata Party), Bhriguram Reang (Trinamool Congress) and Karna Bijoy Jamatia (Aam Aadmi Party). Since 1952, the Left has won the Tripura East seat 10 times while the Congress secured the seat five times. The CPI-M has been winning the seat uninterrupted since 1996.
In picturesque yet sparsely populated Sikkim, a good number of the 362,326-member electorate turned up in good numbers to vote for the lone Lok Sabha constituency and 32 assembly seats. The voter turnout was enthusiastic at most of 538 polling stations.
Six candidates are in fray for the Lok Sabha polls. Sitting MP Prem Das Rai of the Sikkim Democratic Front is re-contesting, while Akar Dhoj Limbu from the Congress, Nar Bahadur Khatiwara from the BJP and Kaushal Rai of the AAP are hoping to give him a fight. Only the SDF, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha and the Congress have put up candidates in all the assembly seats, while the BJP is contestinng 13 and the Trinamool Congress in seven. The SDF had made a clean sweep of all the seats in 2009.
In Assam, brisk balloting was recorded in Silchar, Karimganj and Diphu (Autonomous District). State Chief Electoral Officer Vijayendra said polling remained peaceful in all three seats. Of the 2,926,762 eligible voters in the three constituencies, 1,400,594 are women. For the second phase of polls, 37 candidates are in the fray. Polling for five constituencies was held April 7, while the third and last phase for the remaining six seats will take place April 24. Sitting member Kabindra Purkayastha, Congress legislator Sushmita Deb and Kutub Ahmed Mazumder of the All India United Democratic Front (AIDUF) are in the fray in Silchar.
In Karimganj, 15 candidates, including BJP's Krishna Das, Congress's Lalit Mohan Suklabaidya and Radheshyam Biswas of the AIUDF are contesting. Five candidates, including Congress's sitting member Biren Singh Engti and the BJP's Joyram Engleng, are fighting it out in Diphu.