A high voter turnout was recorded in West Bengal, Assam Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry assembly elections on Tuesday.
The massive polling exercise following COVID-19 health protocol and involving lakhs of personnel began at 7 am and the last hour from 6 pm to 7 pm was set aside for COVID-19 patients and those under isolation.
The counting of votes in the states will be held on May 2.
After a day of turmoil, voting for the third phase of the tightly contested West Bengal assembly elections ended on Tuesday evening with a voter turnout of 77.68 per cent.
According to the Election Commission of India, some instances of violence and brawls were reported in a few areas and some arrests have been made.
"One incident happened in Khanakul where a candidate went to different polling stations. There was an altercation between two groups, and four were arrested. In Arambagh, another altercation took place after a candidate reached Arandi and five others were arrested.”
The Hooghly district and the Goghat constituency recorded the highest turnout of voters with 79.89 per cent and 84.71 per cent respectively. The districts of Howrah and South 24 Parganas registered a turnout of 77.92 per cent and 76.94 per cent respectively.
Ahead of the third phase, three EVMs and four VVPATs were found in the residence of TMC leader Gautam Ghosh. Following this, the sector officer, Tapan Kumar Sarkar, was suspended along with two assistant sector officers, Samjit Majumdar and Mithun Chakraborty. The sector police officer was also suspended and 3 Home Guards were demobilised.
There was also an incident where media persons and agents were barred from entering a polling booth in Hooghly's Tarakeswar constituency. BJP candidate Swapan Dasgupta alleged that state police were misusing authority.
Moreover, BJP candidate from Diamond Harbour, Dipak Haldar, also accused TMC workers of stopping people from casting votes during polling.
"TMC goons are not allowing people to cast their votes at booth number 180 and 143 Dagira Baduldanga. I have complained to the Election Commission officials," Haldar said.
TMC candidate from Arambagh, Sujata Mondal Khan was allegedly attacked by BJP workers and her vehicle was vandalised by a horde of people. After this, a brawl erupted in the Poishara village of that constituency when locals objected to her visit.
There was nearly 65 percent voting in Tamil Nadu for 234 assembly constituencies.
In Tamil Nadu, both the Dravidian parties All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam went into the election without their stalwarts, J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam will cement their position as successors of Jayalalithaa if the AIADMK retains power though it faces an uphill task especially after the rout in the 2019 Lok Sabha election when the DMK-led alliance won 38 out of 39 seats.
The AIADMK had scored successive wins in 2011 and in 2016, when Jayalalithaa bucked the anti-incumbency trend -- the first by anyone in nearly three decades in the state.
After a narrow defeat in the last assembly election where several exit polls had predicted his party's win, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief M K Stalin spearheaded a determined election campaign this time and vigorously toured the state to take on the ruling AIADMK.
He is seeking re-election for the straight third term from the Kolathur segment while his son and party youth wing secretary Udhayanidhi Stalin is debuting from Chepauk-Triplicance constituency.
AIADMK Lok Sabha MP P Ravindhranath alleged that he and his supporters were attacked by DMK men on Tuesday. DMK's Thondamuthur constituency nominee in Coimbatore district, Karthikeya Sivesenapathy alleged that ruling AIADMK and BJP people tried to attack him when he was travelling in a car.
Makkal Needhi Maiam, founded in 2018 and led by actor-politician Kamal Haasan, is trying its luck in the assembly polls for the first time.
AIADMK ally BJP, which had not won any seat in the last polls, is contesting in 20 constituencies. Another AIADMK ally PMK is contesting from 23 constituencies.
The Congress, an ally of the DMK, is in the fray in 25 assembly segments.
An estimated 82.33 per cent of 79.2 lakh electors voted in the third and last phase of Assam Assembly election in 40 constituencies on Tuesday that largely remained peaceful except for sporadic incidents of violence and disturbances reported from some areas.
The percentage of polling, which took place from 7 am to 6 pm, may increase a bit with the arrival of more information, Joint Chief Electoral Officer Rahul Chandra Das said.
"As per the information available, the poll percentage has been estimated at 82.33 per cent," he added.
Polling percentage in the third round is more than the previous two which saw 79.93 and 80.96 per cent voting respectively.
The South Salmara district witnessed highest polling at 89.49 per cent, followed by Dhubri with 89.20 per cent and Bilasipara (87.07 per cent), official data showed.
Lower polling took place at Kamrup Metropolitan, which comprises the Guwahati city, at 74.42 per cent, followed by Bajali with 77.51 per cent and Baksa (78.22 per cent).
Altogether 337 candidates, including 25 women, are contesting in 40 constituencies in the third phase.
During the day, a clash between two groups of public broke out "over some issues", forcing the police to resort to mild lathicharge and firing in the air with no one injured, an official said.
The incident took place at the polling station set up at Dighaltari LP School under Golakganj constituency and the situation is under control with voting continuing normally after a brief halt, the official said.
At the Gutipara booth under the Bilasipara West seat, a group of people attacked security personnel over distribution of free masks and pelted stones at the polling station, leading to lathicharge by the police to control the situation.
Voting was interrupted there for about half-an-hour after which it continued as usual, officials said.
At a polling booth under Bongaigaon constituency, police resorted to lathicharge when a huge crowd had arrived.
A direct contest between nominees of the BJP-led NDA and Congress-headed Grand Alliance is on the cards in 20 constituencies, while there is a triangular fight, including friendly contests, in the remaining seats with the Assam Jatiya Parishad being considered as the third force.
The newly-floated AJP is contesting on 22 seats, while there are 126 independents in the fray in the final phase of polls, in which BJP-led alliance is fighting on 37 seats.
The Grand Alliance has put up 45 candidates, including friendly contests between Congress and AIUDF on five seats.
The fate of 20 sitting MLAs -- eight from the Congress, five from the BJP, three each from the AIUDF and the BPF, and one from the AGP -- will be decided in this round.
BJP ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma,Chandra Mohan Patowary, Siddhartha Bhattacharya and Phani Bhusan Choudhury were in the fray in this phase.
The electoral future of BPF ministers Chandan Brahma and Pramila Rani Brahma along with BJP state chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass were also sealed Tuesday.
In Kerala, where the Left is hoping to beat anti-incumbency to retain power, a feat unseen in four decades, while the Bharatiya Janata Party is making efforts to build inroads, nearly 74 percent polling was recorded till 7 pm.
In Kerala, where the Left Democratic Front is seeking to break the state's four-decade-old trend of swinging between the communists and the Congress-led United Democratic Front, the electors decided the fate of 957 candidates in 140 assembly constituencies across the state.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, health minister K K Shailaja, Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran, Power Minister M M Mani and Higher Education Minister K K Jaleel are among the prominent personalities trying their electoral luck from the ruling side.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, senior leaders K Muraleedharan, P T Thomas and Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan are among those contesting from the UDF fold.
The BJP, which has failed to make a dent in the state, has fielded former Mizoram Governor Kummanam Rajasekharan, 'Metroman' E Sreedharan, who joined the saffron party recently, state president K Surendran , senior leader Shobha Surendran and Rajya Sabha members Suresh Gopi and K J Alphons.
The poll is significant for Kerala Congress-M chief Jose K Mani who recently snapped decades-long ties with the UDF and joined hands with the Left front.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had camped in the state for several days and taken part in dozens of corner meetings and rallies, with the party hoping that the state will herald a turn in its electoral fortunes after a series of disappointments in recent years.
Two voters, including a woman, standing in the queue in Aranmula in Pathnamthitta and Chavittuavary in Kottayam collapsed and died.
Tempers ran high at Kattayikonam in Kazhakootam constituency, a stronghold of the Marxist party in Thiruvananthapuram district, as CPI-M and BJP workers clashed.
Four BJP workers were injured and their car was damaged.
Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran, who is the LDF candidate from the constituency, told reporters that the protestors aimed to disrupt the voting procedure and alleged that police had acted as "BJP agent".
Three Marxist workers, including the minister's personal staff, have been taken into custody. Sobha Surendran, the BJP candidate from Kazhakootam constituency, had earlier in the day held a sit-in in front of a polling booth in the area.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, seeking re-election from Dharmadom in Kannur, expressed confidence that the LDF would be voted back to power and register a 'historic win'.
The BJP account in Nemom, the solitary seat won by the saffron party in the 2016 polls, will be 'closed', he said.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, however, said that a high turnout always augurs well for the UDF.
An estimated 81.64 per cent of the 10.04 lakh voters exercised their franchise in Puducherry on Tuesday for the 30 assembly seats in the union territory.
An official source said that Yanam registered the highest polling percentage of 91.27 per cent and Mahe region, the lowest at 73.53 per cent
Polling was by and large peaceful.
A health department release said 510 COVID-19 patients also cast their franchise with full protective gear in the last hour of the polling, from 6-7 pm.
Among key contestants trying their electoral fortunes are AINRC leader and former Chief Minister N Rangasamy, heading the National Democratic Alliance, with the other constituents being the BJP and the AIADMK.
He is seeking election from Thattanchady segment in Puducherry region as well as in Yanam, an enclave of the UT.
Former minister A Namassivayam is contesting on a BJP ticket from Manadipet, a new turf for him.
Former ministers M O H F Shah Jahan and R Kamalakannan are the other big names in the fray.
The election is a seen as a crucial battle for both the Congress-led Secular Democratic Alliance and the NDA, as the former makes a bid to regain power, although its V Narayanasamy-led government fell in February after being reduced to a minority.
The NDA, under Rangasamy, is also keen to win a majority and form the government.
-- With inputs from ANI