New Delhi: More than 55% of the nearly 200 million voters on Thursday exercised their franchise in the second phase of Lok Sabha polling across 12 states which was by and large peaceful barring stray violence in naxal-infested areas Jharkhand and Bihar.
Two poll officials and a magistrate had a narrow escape when Maoists carried out blasts in Bihar and Jharkhand where security forces repulsed a naxalite bid to disrupt the second phase of elections after a fierce hour-long gunbattle.
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In a separate incident, security forces foiled the Maoists’ attempt to disrupt polling in Bansdera in East Singhbhum, 165 km from the Jharkhand capital, after a fierce hour-long gunbattle with the ultras.
However, the violence in the second and the largest phase covering 140 seats was much less compared to the first one a week ago when 18 people were killed by naxals in Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Gaur cast his vote at a polling station in Gauhati Lok Sabha segment in Assam amid high security.
The second phase of the five-round elections saw the electoral fate of a number of political heavyweights, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi (Amethi), NCP chief Sharad Pawar (Madha), union commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath (Chhindwara), LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan (Hajipur) and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj (Vidisha) being sealed.
With the conclusion of polling in the second phase, voters have given their verdict on 265 Lok Sabha seats (after 125 in the opening round), seven short of the majority in the 543-strong Lok Sabha.
Among the 12 states and union territories which went to poll today, Andhra Pradesh, where the outcome could shape Congress’ comeback bid at the Centre, recorded 68 per cent, followed by Orissa (55%), Maharashtra (56%), Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (44 each), Karnataka (55), Madhya Pradesh (45), Jharkhand (47) and Jammu and Kashmir (46).
Brisk polling was reported from all the 140 constituencies spread across 12 states in the second round of the five-phased elections which would end at 1700 hrs in most places, except in naxal-infested areas where it would close at 1500 hrs.