Polling in the second phase of elections to Lok Sabha began on a moderate note on Thursday during which the fate of prominent leaders such as Rahul Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, George Fernandes, Ramvilas Paswan and Sushma Swaraj will be decided.
Voting began today morning in 140 constituencies spread across 12 states in the second round of the five-phased elections and would end at 5 pm in most places, except in Naxal-infested areas where it would close at 3 pm.
Over 194 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise today across 2 lakh polling stations set up by the Election Commission and guarded by tens of thousands of police and paramilitary personnel.
This round will also see completion of polling to the assemblies of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Rahul Gandhi is seeking re-election from the Gandhi family stronghold of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, Pawar from the newly created seat of Madha in Maharashtra and Fernandes from Muzaffarpur in Bihar.
Other prominent candidates include Bharatiya Janata Party's Sushma Swaraj from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ramvilas Paswan from Hajipur in Bihar. Union Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath is contesting from the Chhindwara constituency in Madhya Pradesh.
Other noteworthy names include Akhilesh Prasad Singh (Purvi Champaran, Bihar), Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (Vaishali, Bihar) and Raghunath Jha (Valmikinagar, Bihar). There are 121 women in the fray in this phase.
The states to be covered are Andhra Pradesh (20 Lok Sabha seats), Assam (11), Bihar (13), Goa (2), Jammu and Kashmir (1), Karnataka (17), Madhya Pradesh (13), Maharashtra (25), Orissa (11), Tripura (2), Uttar Pradesh (17) and Jharkhand (8).
Voting would close at 5 pm, except in Naxal-infested areas where it would end at 3 pm. Voters would be casting their ballots through Electronic Voting Machines, which were first introduced in a by-election in Kerala in 1982.
At the end of the second phase, polls would be completed to 265 seats, just seven short of the magic number that parties need to form a government in the 545-member house. Elections are held to only 543 seats, as two members are nominated from the Anglo-Indian community.
The round two elections will also see polling completed to the state assemblies of Andhra Pradesh (140 of 294 seats) and Orissa (77 of 147 seats). The Andhra assembly elections will decide the fate of Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, his rival and Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu and actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi among others. In Orissa, Biju Janata Dal chief Naveen Patnaik is aiming for a third straight term in office.
Approximately 12.43 per cent of the electorate exercised their franchise in the first two hours of polling in Andhra Pradesh, where elections to the state assembly are also being held along with the Lok Sabha polls.
An EVM was stolen before polling began in Cuddapah and at Chandragiri, in Chittoor district, miscreants have destroyed an EVM, officials said, adding that malfunctioning of EVMs was reported at some places and they have been quickly rectified.
Large number of voters were seen waiting outside the polling stations in Udhampur-Doda Lok Sabha constituency in Jammu and Kashmir.
Nearly ten per cent of the electorate cast their ballot in the first three hours of polling in 17 Lok Sabha constituencies in Karnataka, while 30 per cent votes were polled in the first three hours in Tripura.