An estimated 50 per cent of the 14.4 crore electorate on Thursday exercised their franchise in the third phase of Lok Sabha polls in nine states and two union territories, which passed off by and large peacefully, barring stray violence in Bihar and West Bengal.
The electoral fate of political heavyweights like Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial nominee L K Advani, former prime minister and Janata Dal - Secular chief H D Deve Gowda, Communist Party of India leader Gurudas Dasgupta, Communist Party of India leader Basudeb Acharya and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Jaswant Singh were decided in the third phase that covers 107 constituencies.
The 14 constituencies in West Bengal, where the polling was held for the first time in this election, recorded the highest turnout of 64 per cent followed by Karnataka (57 per cent), Gujarat (50 per cent) and Maharashtra (45 per cent).
The lowest turnout of 25 per cent was witnessed in Anantnag constituency in Jammu and Kashmir, where the separatists had called for a poll boycott.
With the completion of the third phase, the voters have given their verdict in 372 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. Two more phases are to be held on May 7 and 13 before counting is taken up on May 16.
The voters' response in the first two phases was at around 60 per cent.
The polling in the elections to the 32-member Sikkim assembly drew a 64 per cent turnout.
Thirteen per cent turnout was recorded in 49 booths in troubled Lalgarh, where booths were shifted from certain areas, in accordance with the agreement reached with tribal leader Chhatradhar Mahato, whose organisation has been resisting police entry into their areas for the last six months.
The third phase saw the completion of the polling process in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
In Uttar Pradesh, where 15 constituencies went to poll today, the voter turnout was 45 per cent while Bihar's 11 constituencies, which put to test the newly-stitched alliance of Rashtriya Janata Dal and Lok Janshakti Party, registered 48 per cent response.
Bihar witnessed a voter turnout of 48 per cent in the third and penultimate phase of polls in 11 parliamentary constituencies. However, stray incidents left 12 persons, including 4 policemen, injured.
The police fired in the air after voters tried to storm three booths at Forbesganj and Araria Lok Sabha constituencies, but no one was injured, Additional Director General of Police (headquarters) Neelmani said.
Prominent leaders whose fates were decided today included Janata Dal - United president Sharad Yadav (Madhepura), Rashtriya Janata Dal's union ministers Taslimuddin (Kishanganj) and Jaiprakash Narayan Yadav (Banka), Nationalist Congress Party General Secretary Tariq Anwar (Katihar), rebel JD-U leader and former union minister Digvijay Singh (Banka).
Approximately 57 per cent of the 1.55 crore electorate exercised their franchise in the second and final phase of voting in the 11 constituencies of Karnataka, which passed off peacefully today.
"Polling passed off peacefully," Chief Electoral Officer M N Vidyashankar told PTI.
The fortunes of 156 candidates, including former prime minister and Janata Dal - Secular supremo H D Deve Gowda in Hassan, B Y Raghavendra, son of Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, who had taken on former Chief Minister S Bangarappa in Shimoga and the BJP's state unit president D V Sadananda Gowda from Udupi-Chikmagalur, was sealed in EVMs today.
Dakshina Kannada topped the polling percentage in this phase with over 62 per cent while Haveri was at the bottom with only 40 per cent polling.
The first phase of the Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal, which passed off peacefully in 14 of the 42 seats today, recorded a voter turnout of 64 per cent.
"The turnout was 64 per cent till 5 pm. The polling percentage will rise as reports are still trickling in from remote areas," state Chief Electoral Officer Debashish Sen told reporters.
Stating that no major incident was reported, Sen said a Border Security Force personnel was injured in a landmine blast in Purulia district.
Prominent contestants whose fate were sealed today were BJP heavyweight Jaswant Singh from Darjeeling, Communist Party of India - Marxist leader in Lok Sabha Basudeb Acharya from Bankura, Communist Party of India parliamentarian Gurudas Dasgupta from Ghatal and Deepa Dasmunshi, wife of ailing Congress leader Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi.
Low turnout of voters was reported in 1,000 booths in Maoist-infested Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore districts, but the percentage of polling was not yet available.
The Election Commission recorded 43.5 per cent polling in the second phase of the on-going Lok Sabha election in Uttar Pradesh. State capital Lucknow recorded the lowest voter turn out of only 34 per cent.
More than 1.20 crore of the 2.23 crore voters in Lucknow chose not to venture out, either due to the scorching heat or due to sheer indifference.
However, polling was peaceful and no untoward incident was reported from any of the 15 constituencies.
The state's most high-profile constituency -- Rae Bareli -- from where Congress president Sonia Gandhi is seeking re-election, polled a relatively respectable 46 per cent. Her son Rahul's constituency, Amethi, had recorded a low polling of 39 per cent.
Low voter turnout was witnessed in the peaceful parliamentary election in south Kashmir's prestigious Anantnag constituency, which was the first to go to polls in Kashmir valley today.
State Chief Electoral Officer B R Sharma told reporters that tentatively 26 percent turnout was recorded in the constituency.
He said polling was peaceful with no untoward incident reported from any of the 16 assembly segments of the largest parliamentary constituency in Kashmir.
The main contest in the prestigious constituency is between the ruling National Conference-Congress alliance candidate Mirza Mehboob Beg and People's Democratic Party candidate Peer Mohammad Hussain.
An estimated 50 per cent of the electorate today exercised its right of franchise in 16 Parliamentary constituencies of Madhya Pradesh in the third phase of Lok Sabha polls
Briefing reporters at the end of the polling, state Chief Electoral Officer J S Mathur said the day passed off peacefully in all the 16 constituencies, barring some stray incidents.
The CEO said a re-poll was likely to be ordered in the two polling stations of Sagar Lok Sabha constituency and one in Morena seat.
An estimated 46 per cent to 49 per cent voters cast their ballot in Gujarat today to decide the electoral fate of 359 candidates, including BJP's prime ministerial candidate L K Advani, across 26 Lok Sabha seats.
The voting, held amidst tight security, was peaceful barring a few incidents of violence, officials said.
The voter turnout in Gujarat in 2004 was 45 per cent, which this time went up despite heat wave conditions prevailing in the state, where temperatures ranged between 41 and 44 degrees Celsius.
"Voting passed off peacefully barring a couple of violent incidents," Gujarat Chief Electoral Officer Anita Karwal said.