New Delhi: Voters turned up in large numbers in the eighth phase of polling on Wednesday to keep up a trend that has seen a high 66.27% turnout for 502 Lok Sabha seats so far in the general election—beating the 57.94% turnout notched up in 2009 for the same seats.
Seven states—Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal—went to polls on Wednesday. All seven registered a higher turnout than in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Election Commission (EC) director general Akshay Raut said.
A total of 32 states and Union territories have so far completed polling, with the last phase scheduled for 12 May.
Thirty states and Union territories have voted higher than the turnout in the 2009 elections, Raut said, and data available for polling till the seventh phase shows that in 13 states, women outnumbered male voters.
Sixty-four Lok Sabha constituencies went to the polls on Wednesday, with Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh completing their polls. Both Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand recorded their highest-ever turnouts at 76.01% and 62%, respectively.
Fifteen constituencies of Uttar Pradesh that went to polls registering a turnout of 55.52% as opposed to 43.37% for the same constituencies in 2009.
At the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency in the state, where Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is pitted against Smriti Irani of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Kumar Vishwas of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the turnout was 54.24%.
A total of 58% of the electorate in seven constituencies of Bihar also exercised their franchise on Wednesday in comparison to 44.7% in 2009.
West Bengal, where elections were held for six constituencies, recorded the day’s highest turnout at 81.28%, compared to 77.72% five years ago. Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir saw a total of 65% and 49.98% turnout, respectively.
Voters also exercised their franchise in 175 assembly constituencies of Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday along with Assembly by-elections in two constituencies each in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and one each in West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh.
Elections to the remaining 41 Lok Sabha constituencies across Bihar, UP and West Bengal will be held on 12 May and the results will be declared on 16 May.
The day saw senior BJP leaders threaten to go on a protest over what they described as the “partisan” behaviour of a returning officer in Varanasi constituency, from where the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is contesting.
The party said Modi was denied permission for holding a public meeting in a crowded part of the city.
However, Vinod Zutshi, deputy election commissioner, said, “The Commission does not accept any insinuations of inaction or bias in this regard. As in all matters, the Commission would act correctly by facilitating legitimate campaigning by all parties.”
Meanwhile, stepping up efforts to seize black money and other means to influence voters, authorities have seized more than Rs.289 crore in cash and over 22.4 million litres of liquor till date in the elections, the EC said. A total of 1,688 notices of paid news have been served by returning officers across the country, out of which 639 have already been confirmed as cases of paid news.
Polling in 13 districts of bifurcated Andhra Pradesh, also called Seemandhra, rose to 77% at 6pm on Wednesday.
Seemandhra, comprising of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions of Andhra Pradesh, will be officially separated from Telangana region on 2 June. The Telugu-speaking state is going to the polls as a united state but will elect governments of Telangana and Seemandhra once the electoral outcome is known.
A total of 3.67 crore voters are registered to cast their ballots for 333 candidates who are in the race for 25 Lok Sabha constituencies and 2,241 candidates who are in the fray for 175 Assembly seats in Seemandhra. Voters of Telangana exercised their franchise on 30 April.
Yogendra Kalavalapalli in Hyderabad contributed to this story.