Polling began at 7 am today for the third and final phase of the Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra, where 338 candidates are testing electoral waters in 19 Lok Sabha seats.
Polling is being held in following 19 constituencies: Nandurbar, Dhule, Jalgaon, Raver, Dindori, Nashik in North Maharashtra, Jalna, Aurangabad in Marathwada, Palghar, Bhiwandi, Kalyan, Thane in Thane district and Raigad, besides all the six constituencies of Mumbai North, Mumbai North Central, Mumbai South Central, Mumbai South, Mumbai North East and Mumbai North West.
Prominent candidates in the the poll arena include PWD Minister and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal (Nashik), Union minister Milind Deora (Mumbai South) of Congress and Water Resources Minister and NCP leader Sunil Tatkare (Raigad).
Of the 338 candidates in the electoral fray, 149 are independents and 26 women.
Out of the total 3,17,39,442 voters expected to vote today, 1,70,20,383 are men and 1,46,22,713 are women. There are 12 constituencies with over 16 candidates. Aurangabad has the highest number of 27 candidates, while Nandurbar has the lowest number of nine contestants.
Thane (20, 72,476 voters) is the largest parliamentary seat while Mumbai South central (14, 46,979 voters) is the smallest. There are 121 candidates from registered political parties other than recognised national and state parties.
BJP is contesting 11, Shiv Sena 8, Congress 10, NCP 8, MNS 7, CPI 2 and CPM 3 seats. BSP is contesting all the 19 seats. The EC has put up 34,343 polling stations for the exercise.
In the three-phase elections in the state, ten seats in Vidarbha region went to polls on April 10, while voting for 19 seats in Marathwada and Western Maharashtra regions was held on April 17.
Meanwhile, extensive security arrangements are in place, with around one lakh armed security personnel maintaining a strict vigil to ensure peaceful, free and fair polling today, police said.
Various measures are taken to prevent any possible disturbance during polling by anti-social elements and Mumbai and adjoining Thane district are given special attention to, they said.
According to police, 400 booths have been identified as sensitive, and nearly 300 of them are in Mumbai alone.
Besides Maharashtra Police, contingents of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Rapid Action Force, State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) and Home Guards have been deployed for security.
In all, about one lakh security personnel are on poll duty, police said.
There are 18 static surveillance teams and an equal number of flying squads in each constituency.
In Mumbai, about 32,501 personnel, including Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria, Joint and Additional Police Commissioners, 38 Deputy Police Commissioners, 46 Assistant Police Commissioners of the Mumbai Police will be on duty overseeing polling at 9,879 booths across 1,528 locations.
Apart from the city police, 10 companies of CRPF, 19 companies of SRPF, 5275 home guards, 250 civil defence officers and personnel have been also deployed, Maria said.
338 candidates are in the fray for the third and final phase of polling in 19 constituencies across Mumbai, Thane, North Maharashtra, Marathwada and Konkan regions.
In Aurangabad, a first-time voter, a middle-aged couple and senior citizens were among the early voters.
In Mumbai, prominent among the early voters were candidates Gurudas Kamat (Congress), Poonam Mahajan , Gopal Shetty (both BJP) Arvind Sawant, Rahul Shewale (Shiv Sena), Adtiya Shirodkar (MNS) and Meera Sanyal (AAP).
The Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Vinod Tawde also cast his vote.