Moderate to high turnout today marked the polling in the fifth and biggest round of Lok Sabha elections covering 121 seats across 12 states amidst Maoist violence in Jharkhand where rebels injured four CRPF jawans, blew up a railway track and exploded bombs.
The highest turnout of 78.89 per cent was in the four constituencies in West Bengal, which has a total of 39 seats, while the lowest was recorded in Madhya Pradesh at 54 per cent.
In the key battleground state of Karnataka, where polling was held in the all the 28 seats today, the voting percentage was 66 per cent and in the 11 seats of Uttar Pradesh, electorally the most important state, the turnout was 62.52 per cent.
A good show for Congress in Karnataka could help it to check BJP's perceived surge nationally. In the previous Lok Sabha poll in the state, BJP had won 18 seats in the state but is struggling this time.
Congress had defeated BJP in last year’s state assembly polls, bringing to an end the saffron party’s only power centre in southern India.
Bangalore watched one of the keenly contested seats in the state where Congress party candidate Nandan Nilekani is pitted against BJP veteran Ananth Kumar.
Polling in another important, Maharashtra, which has a total of 48 seats, 19 constituencies which went to poll today saw a turnout of 61.7 per cent.
Today's polling decided the fate of 358 candidates, including Union Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and former chief minister Ashok Chavan (both Congress) and senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde in Maharashtra. The fifth phase of polling was the largest single-day in the nine-phased election exercise and electoral fates of 1,769 candidates, including Nandan Nilekani (Cong), Maneka Gandhi, former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda (JD-S), Union Ministers Veerappa Moily (Cong) and Srikant Jena, Supriya Sule and Lalu Prasad's eldest daughter Misa Bharti, were decided.
Viewed as a high stakes day by both BJP and its allies, which hold 46 seats and Congress and its partners having 43 seats, today's polling may decide which party will lead the race to form the next government. Polling in Uttar Pradesh decided the fate of 150 candidates, including Maneka Gandhi, Santosh Gangwar, Saleem Sherwani and Begum Noor Bano.
West Bengal holds the key to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's bid to position herself as a key player in government-formation at the Centre in the event of a fractured mandate.
Over 54 per cent polling was registered in seven Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, another electorally key state, today while 62 percent turnout was reported in six constituencies in adjacent Jharkhand despite Maoists' boycott call.
With completion of polling in the fifth phase, the exercise crossed the half way mark in the nine-phased elections to 543-member Lok Sabha.
Polling has already been completed in 111 seats in the earlier four phases in which voter turnout in most states has been higher than in 2009. Around 65 per cent voter turnout was recorded in three Naxal-hit Lok Sabha constituencies of Chhattisgarh where Maoists targeted a polling team but there was no casualty.
Barring the one Naxal-related incident, polling was by and large peaceful in the State which completed the second phase of voting that decided the fate of Congress leader Ajit Jogi and CM Raman Singh's son Abhishek (BJP) among others.
Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency in Jammu and Kashmir, where senior Congress leader and Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is in fray, recorded over 69 percent polling.