Two explosions at polling stations in Pulwama in Kashmir and clashes between TMC and BJP in West Bengal were reported during the fifth phase of Lok Sabha polls on Monday across seven states in which over 62 per cent turnout was recorded. According to the Election Commission, over 57.33 per cent of 2.47 crore eligible people cast their vote in 14 seats in Uttar Pradesh, where political heavyweights like Congress' Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani were in the fray.
In Rajasthan, 63.78 per cent polling was recorded in 12 seats, while it was 63.88 per cent in seven constituencies in Madhya Pradesh, 57.86 per cent five seats in Bihar and 63.72 in four seats in Jharkhand that went to polls on Monday.
The voter turnout was 74.42 in seven seats in West Bengal, where incidents of Trinamool Congress and BJP workers attacking each other, hurling of bombs, injury to a candidate due to lathicharge by central forces, manhandling of a contestant and beating up of a polling agent were reported in Bangaon (SC), Barrackpore, Hooghly and Howrah constituencies.
In Jammu and Kashmir, 64 per cent polling was recorded in Ladakh but the turnout was barely three per cent in militancy-infested Shopian and Pulwama districts in the final of the three-phase election to Anantnag constituency held amid militant threats and boycott call by separatists in Kashmir. Militants lobbed a grenade towards Rohmoo polling station and set off an explosion at another polling booth in Tral in Pulwama but no one was injured in the two incidents.
The overall turnout was 8.76 per cent as against 28.54 per cent in 2014 in Anantnag where 18 candidates are in the fray including PDP president and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti.
In the high profile Amethi seat, Union minister and BJP candidate Smriti Irani alleged that her rival and Congress president Rahul Gandhi was "ensuring booth capturing" and also tagged a video on twitter in which an elderly women alleged that her hand was forcibly put on 'panja' (hand) election symbol of the Congress. But the Chief Electoral Officer said the matter was "examined thoroughly and found baseless".
The turnout was 53 per cent in Amethi, 53.68 per cent in Raebareli and around 53 per cent in Lucknow. The BJP had bagged 12 of the 14 seats in 2014 with the Congress winning Rae Bareli and Amethi. Prominent voters in the state capital Lucknow included Home Minister Singh, BSP supremo Mayawati, Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma and BSP general secretary S C Misra.
In West Bengal, a scuffle between Barrackpore seat's BJP candidate Arjun Singh and personnel of central security forces was reported when the former TMC MLA tried to enter a booth following allegations that voters were not being allowed to exercise their franchise there, the official said.
Alleging that the police were not doing anything to stop rigging in some booths of Barrackpore seat, Singh demanded that re-polling be ordered. The maximum number of "sensitive" booths in Monday's elections were in Barrackpore seat where TMC sitting MP Dinesh Trivedi has been pitted against Singh, who switched over to the BJP recently after he was denied a ticket by party supremo Mamata Banerjee.
In Howrah's Balitikuri, TMC candidate and former India footballer Prasun Bandyopdhayay was "manhandled" allegedly by central forces when he tried to enter a booth there. An FIR was lodged in this connection, Bandyopadhyay said. Bomb explosions were reported from outside a booth at Hingli in Bangaon constituency following a clash between two groups allegedly owing allegiance to the TMC and the BJP, in which two persons were injured, an official said.
There is also a report that a CPI(M) agent was beaten up and driven out of a booth in Arambagh constituency. A presiding officer at a booth in Tarakeswar was removed after one person, allegedly belonging to TMC, was seen casting votes on behalf of others there.
The ruling Trinamool Congress, the BJP, the Congress and Left Front constituent CPI(M) are the main contenders in the seven seats where 83 candidates are contesting. In Rajasthan, where polling concluded Monday, an overall turnout of 66.12 per cent in 25 seats was recorded in the two phases.
An official said "minor issues related to EVMs were reported at some places" in Madhya Pradesh "but they were sorted out". Barring a few reports of poll boycott and EVM glitches, voting was largely peaceful in Bihar. One person has been taken into custody in Saran for damaging an EVM which was replaced.
"The voting process was delayed by around 30 minutes in six polling stations of Saran, two in Madhubani, one each in Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur constituencies due to technical glitches in the EVMs, but the officials have attended to the issues," according to an official.
Over 8.75 crore electors were to decide the fate of 674 candidates in the fifth phase Monday. The Election Commission had set up 96,000 polling booths which included the maximum of 28,072 in Uttar Pradesh. With this phase, election is over in 424 seats and polling in the remaining 118 seats will be held on May 12 and 19.
Election to 542 Lok Sabha seats is being conducted in seven phases between April 11 and May 19. Election to Vellore constituency in Tamil Nadu had been cancelled by the EC following excess use of money power. Results will be declared on May 23.