Millions voted across 95 Lok Sabha seats in 12 states and Puducherry on Thursday in the second phase of the staggered battle for a new Parliament, marred by stray violence in West Bengal and muted polling in Srinagar.
CPI-M MP and candidate Mohd Salim was attacked allegedly by Trinamool Congress activists in Raiganj constituency where he is seeking re-election when he went to a polling booth to check reports of vote rigging, officials said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also accused the Trinamool Congress of unleashing violence on its opponents, a charge denied by the ruling party in West Bengal.
A total of 15.7 crore electorate can pick 95 Lok Sabha members out of 1,606 contestants on Thursday.
Stone pelters targeted a polling station in Srinagar city, injuring a policeman. Most Srinagar polling booths reported sparse polling following a call from separatists to boycott the nationwide seven-phase polls that will end on May 19 and whose outcome will be known on May 23.
Polling in all other places was reportedly peaceful although complaints of glitches in electronic voting machines (EVMs) came from several states, briefly halting the electoral process.
Unfazed by the summer heat and dust, voters turned out in large numbers in Karnataka. There was nearly 40 per cent polling between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. spread across 14 parliamentary constituencies, the main fight between the ruling Congress-JD-S alliance and the BJP.
Polling was also brisk in Tamil Nadu where people will be electing 38 of 39 Lok Sabha members — voting in Vellore has been postponed — and 18 members to the state Assembly.
Tamil Nadu, where the main contest is between the coalitions led by the AIADMK and the DMK, too reported nearly 40 per cent voting till 1 p.m. Puducherry voted for its lone Lok Sabha seat.
After initial dull moments, the voting picked up dramatically in Odisha, which is electing five Lok Sabha and 35 Assembly members.
The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) said it was confident of retaining power but the BJP said it was looking forward to a victory.
In Bihar, 32 per cent voting was reported till 1 p.m. in five of 40 Lok Sabha seats. But people in about a dozen villages in all five constituencies boycotted the elections to protest against lack of development.
Uttar Pradesh’s voting percentage was racing towards 40 per cent in all eight constituencies: Mathura, Hathras, Amroha, Agra, Fatehpur-Sikri, Aligarh, Nagina, Bulandshahr.
While brisk voting was reported in the Udhampur Lok Sabha seat in Jammu and Kashmir, with over 32 per cent polling in just five hours, polling in Srinagar was muted.
A police constable was injured in stone pelting by youths trying to disrupt the election in Chrar-e-Sharief in Badgam district, which falls in the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat.
Despite several incidents of violence including an attack on CPI-M’s Salim and the smashing of an EVM, Bengal registered over 51 per cent polling in the three northern constituencies of Jalpaiguri, Raiganj and Darjeeling.
After a dull start, voting zoomed in Maharashtra which will elect 10 of the 48 Lok Sabha members on Thursday.
Voting also took place on Thursday in Chhattisgarh and Manipur.
Technical glitches in electronic voting machines (EVM) marred voting in seven of the 12 states that went to polls in the second phase of the staggered Lok Sabha elections.
Faulty EVMs delayed polls in several constituencies in Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.
In Odisha, EVM glitches in many booths in Talsara Assembly constituency were reported while polling was delayed in six booths in Bonai Assembly constituency. Odisha saw both Lok Sabha as well as Assembly elections.
Booths in Kendudihi, Bolangir and Kandhamal, G.Udayagiri and Baliguda in Odisha were also affected.
In Uttar Pradesh, EVMs malfunctioned and disrupted polling in Mathura, Bulandshahr and Amroha. In Fatehpur Sikri, voters created a ruckus at booth no 201 and 54 where polling was on hold for more than 30 minutes due to EVM troubles.
There were also reports of snags in the VVPAT (voter-verified paper audit trail)-EVMs in Nanded, Latur and Solapur in Maharashtra which either delayed polling or stopped it midway.
Unofficial reports said at least 75 EVMs were replaced with spare ones in polling stations in Nanded alone.
Admitting that there were complaints against EVMs in some booths in Karnataka, Joint Chief Electoral Officer A.V. Surya Sen said they were replaced soon.
“We have given extra EVMS to all the polling booths to replace any machine having glitches or malfunctioning. Technical officials have been stationed at the booths to replace them at the earliest to avoid voters waiting for their turn,” added Sen.
In the Kanniyakumari Lok Sabha constituency in Tamil Nadu, voters stood in queue in several booths for nearly an hour to vote.
Similarly, at a booth in Chennai, there was a technical glitch that delayed voting for about an hour.
Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo told reporters that 384 faulty EVMs and 692 faulty VVPAT machines were replaced across the state. After that, polling went on smoothly.
EVM problems were also reported in Bihar’s Purnea, Katihar and Banka seats and in Ramban in the Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency in Jammu and Kashmir.
Amid polling, Naxals trigger IED blast in C’garh; none hurt
Naxals triggered an IED blast on Thursday in Chhattisgarh’s Rajnandgaon district where polling for Lok Sabha elections is underway, a senior police official said.
No casualty was reported in the incident, he said.
“The rebels detonated the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) around 10.30 am between Medha and Dabba villages, falling under Manpur-Mohla Assembly segment, when a team of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police team was out on area domination operation in view of polling in the area,” he said.
No harm was caused to the security personnel as the explosion took place a few metres away from them, he said, adding that a combing operation was underway in the area.
A thick security blanket of around 60,000 personnel, and drones, has been thrown around the three constituencies-Rajnandgaon, Kanker and Mahasamund – of the state where polling is being held in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections.