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LS polls: Bihar sees lowest turnout with 50%, WB tops with 81%

Last updated on: April 12, 2019 08:01 IST

This time however, the poll panel did not share the overall polling percentage at its briefing, saying the data was being collated and would be available later. 

IMAGE: People show their finger marked with indelible ink, after casting their vote during the first phase of general elections, at a polling station in Noida. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI Photo

West Bengal on Thursday recorded a polling percentage of 81 per cent, while Bihar recorded 50 per cent voter turnout in phase one of Lok Sabha elections.

Two seats in Bihar -- Cooch Behar and Alipurduars -- went to poll in the first phase.

The state will have polling in all seven phases.

 

Bihar recorded voter turnout of 50 per cent, the lowest among the 20 states which went to polls on Thursday, the Election Commission said.

This time however, the poll panel did not share the overall polling percentage at its briefing, saying the data was being collated and would be available later.

The two seats in Jammu and Kashmir -- Jammu and Baramulla -- recorded an overall percentage of 54.49 as compared to 57.19 in the 2014 general elections.

In Baramulla, the turnout was 35.01 per cent as compared to 38.5 per cent last time.

IMAGE: A CRPF personnel carries an elderly woman to a polling station in Gaya. Photograph: PTI Photo

In Jammu, 72.16 per cent of voters turned up at the polling stations, as compared to 69.17 per cent last time.

Andhra Pradesh, where all 25 seats went to polls in the first phase, recorded a turnout of 66 per cent as compared to 74.64 per cent in the last LS polls.

BREAK DOWN OF VOTER TURNOUT

In Mizoram, where the entire state went to polls in a single phase, recorded a dip in turnout. While last time the turnout was 61.95 per cent, this time it was 60 per cent.

The turnout in all constituencies is likely to go up as final reports were yet to come in, EC officials told reporters.

Similarly in Lakshadweep, the percentage this time was 66 as compared to 86 in 2014.

In Arunachal Pradesh, where both the constituencies went to polls, the turnout stood at 66 per cent as compared to 86 per cent in 2014.

Voting was also held 175 assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh, 32 in Sikkim and 28 seats in Odisha.

Western UP

IMAGE: A woman casts her vote during the first phase of the general elections, at Kaila Bhatta village in Ghaziabad. Photograph: Ravi Choudhary/PTI Photo

About 64 per cent of voters exercised their franchise till 6 pm on Thursday in eight Lok Sabha constituencies of western Uttar Pradesh that went to polls in the first phase.

Estimating an average voter turnout of 63.69 per cent, the poll officials said the percentage is likely to increase a little.

Polling was brisk during morning hours, but it slowed down in afternoon, picking up again towards the evening with enthusiastic voters, mostly first-timers, lining up in long queues outside several polling centres.

Poll officials said till 6 pm Saharanpur recorded maximum voter turnout at 70.68 per cent, while the least turnout was reported for Ghaziabad Lok Sabha seat where it stood at 57.60 per cent.

The polling percentage in Meerut and Baghpat stood at 63 around 63.90 per cents respectively.

IMAGE: Voters at a polling station during the first phase of general election in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh. Photograph: Devjyot Ghoshal/Reuters

The voting percentage in Kairana was 62.10 percent, Muzaffarnagar 65.66 percent, Bijnor 65.40 per cent and 60.15 per cent in Gautam Buddha Nagar, they said.

At a Kairana polling booth, a BSF jawan fired in air to disperse some people, who were not carrying their identity cards and tried to forcibly enter the premises to cast vote, police said.

The incident took place at a polling booth in Rasoolpur Gujran village under Kandhla police station around noon.

In Muzaffarnagar, BJP MP Sanjeev Balyan stoked a controversy by demanding that male officials check the identity of burqa-clad women at poll stations where women security personnel had not been posted.

"If someone comes in a burqa, whether the same person is coming four or five times, how will you check," Balyan told reporters in Muzaffarnagar.

IMAGE: Voters stand in a queue to cast their vote during the first phase of the general elections, at a polling station in Meerut. Photograph: PTI Photo

Three Union ministers -- V K Singh (Ghaziabad), Satyapal Singh (Baghpat) and Mahesh Sharma (Gautam Buddha Nagar) -- are in the fray in the first leg of the seven-phase polls.

The BJP had won all the eight seats in 2014 Lok Sabha elections but lost Kairana seat in a by-poll held later.

The communally sensitive seat of Muzaffarnagar is witnessing a clash between RLD chief Ajit Singh and Balyan.

In the first phase, 1,50,65,682 voters - 82,24,835 men, 68,39,833 women and 1,014 third gender - were eligible to exercise their franchise in 16,518 booths set up inside 6,716 polling centres to decide the fate of 96 candidates.

Politically crucial Uttar Pradesh sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. Of the 80 seats in UP, the Samajwadi Party is contesting on 37 seats, BSP on 38, and the RLD on three seats.

Telangana

IMAGE: A couple show off their inked fingers after casting their vote in Telangana. Photograph: ANI Photo

An estimated 61 per cent of voters cast their ballot in Telangana, officials said.

All the 17 segments, including Nizamabad that saw over 170 farmers contesting demanding remunerative price for their produce, went to polls in the single phase and till 5 pm, 60.57 per cent voting was recorded.

"I expect it (the poll percentage) to go a little bit higher", Telangana Chief Electoral Officer Rajat Kumar told reporters.

He said the final voting percentage would be given on Friday.

While the ruling TRS has exuded confidence in doing well in the Parliamentary elections on the back of its sweep in the recent assembly elections, the Congress and BJP look to make a dent in the largely three-cornered contest.

Former Union minister Renuka Chowdhury, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi, Telangana Rashtra Samithi president and chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao's daughter K Kavitha and state Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy were among the key candidates.

Medak recorded highest number of voter turnout with 68.60 per cent while Secunderabad was the lowest at 39.20 per cent, till 5 pm.

Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Governor E S L Narasimhan, the chief minister, TRS Working President K T Rama Rao, Kavitha and Asaduddin Owaisi were among those who cast their votes.

IMAGE: Voters in a queue to cast their vote at Hyderabad Lok Sabha Constituency in Hyderabad. Photograph: ANI Photo

Film actors Chiranjeevi, Ram Charan, Allu Arjun, junior NTR and 'Baahubali' director SS Rajamouli were among the other prominent people who exercised their franchise in the polls.

KCR, along with his wife Shobha cast his vote in Chintamadaka village in Siddipet district.

Telangana BJP chief spokesperson Krishna Saagar Rao alleged the Election Commission has fallen short of expectations in conduct of elections in Telangana.

"In Telangana, there are several instances of EVMs not working," he claimed.

Teams deployed to fix the EVMs when they were not functional should have been technically more efficient, Rao said, adding, at many places, even though there were three EVMs in a booth, only one or two were functioning.

Apollo Hospitals Group Executive Vice Chairperson Shobana Kamineni Thursday said her name was missing in the voters' list and described it as "worst day as an Indian citizen."

Reacting to this, Rajat Kumar said he has ordered an enquiry into the incident and an appropriate action would be taken based on the report.

Polling in 16 constituencies began at 7 am, while voting process in Nizamabad started an hour later in view of more time required for mock polling due to the presence of 185 candidates.

Over 2.97 crore voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in the state, where 443 candidates were in fray.

Andhra Pradesh

IMAGE: A family is all smiles as it waits in line to exercise their franchise. Photograph: ANI Photo

An impressive turnout of over 73 per cent was recorded in the single phase assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Andhra Pradesh amid stray violence involving the ruling TDP and YSRC cadres that reportedly left
three people dead.

Incidents of EVM damage and stone pelting marked the high octane polling that saw a large number out of the over 3.97 crore eligible voters turning up braving the scorching summer heat.

Polling was held Thurday simultaneously for 175 Assembly seats featuring 2,118 candidates and 25 Lok Sabha seats having 319 contestants.

The fate of incumbent chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and main opposition YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy, son of late chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, was sealed as the curtains came down on the first ever general elections after bifurcation of the state to create Telangana in 2014.

Other contenders include the Congress, BJP and the Jana Sena of Pawan Kalyan, who has tied up with BSP.

Official sources said clashes between TDP and YSRC workers were reported in Guntur, Anantapuramu, West Godavari, Prakasam, Kurnool and Kadapa districts, but did not specify deaths.

The polling was not affected in any place, they said.

Police also did not confirm the election-related killings.

IMAGE: Women queue up at Vijayawada constituency to cast their vote. Photograph: ANI Photo

Telugu Desam and YSR Congress issued statements reporting the deaths of their party members accusing each other of being responsible for the violence.

While about 73 per cent of polling was reported by closing time at 6 pm, authorities expect the final figure likely to cross 80 per cent. The state had recorded 76 per cent polling in 2014.

The ruling TDP raised a hue and cry over malfunctioning of electronic voting machines and blamed the Election Commission for failing to conduct the elections properly.

Chandrababu Naidu went to the extent of claiming that 30 per cent of the EVMs encountered problems across the state, a charge the EC denied.

All allegations against the Election Commission are completely motivated. There was nothing amiss with the electronic gadgets though about 0.3 per cent of EVMs encountered technical glitches, state Chief Electoral Officer
(CEO) Gopal Krishna Dwivedi said.

The YSRC said one of its workers was attacked with sickles by the TDP men and killed in Veerapuram village under Tadipatri constituency in Anantapuramu district while another was done to death in Tamballapalle in Chittoor district.

The TDP said its worker Sidda Bhaskar Reddy was killed by the opposition party in Veerapuram.

Five other people were injured in the violent clash in Veerapuram.

Maharashtra

IMAGE: Voters show their ID Cards before casting their vote at Nagpur Central. Photograph: ANI Photo

Altogether 55.78 per cent voters exercised their franchise in seven Lok Sabha constituencies in Maharashtra, officials said.

Polling began at 7 am and ended at 5 pm in all the seven seats, they said.

A total of 116 candidates were in the fray in these seven seats, which were once a Congress bastion.

As many as 1,33,00,978 voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in the seven Lok Sabha seats, the officials said.

The state chief electoral office said Naxal-hit Gadchiroli-Chimur Lok Sabha seat witnessed an impressive 61.33 per cent voter turn-out, while 60.50 per cent electorate exercised the franchise in Bhandara-Gondiya.

Chandrapur recorded 55.97 per cent polling, followed by 55.36 per cent in Wardha, 53.97 per cent in Yavatmal- Washim, 53.13 per cent in Nagpur and 51.72 per cent in Ramtek (SC) seat.

Prominent candidates in these constituencies were Union ministers and senior BJP leaders Nitin Gadkari (Nagpur) and Hansraj Ahir (Chandrapur).

Naxals triggered an IED blast near a polling booth in Maharashtra's Gadchroli district while voting was underway, police said. There were no casualties, a police official said.

Glitches in EVMs were reported at some places, an official said.

After reports of VVPAT machines not working in Gondiya district of Bhanadara-Gondiya constituency, returning officer there said the faulty machines were replaced quickly and the polling concluded smoothly.

EVM glitches were also reported from Booth No. 127 (Gadchiroli-Chimur constituency) and Booth No. 147 (Yavatmal- Washim) in Maharashtra.

"The faulty machines were replaced in 15 minutes," Bhandara district Collector Shantanu Goel told PTI.

A voter outside the Blue Diamond School polling booth in Nagpur constituency said voters there were waiting in a long queue and the EVM machine there has stopped working.

Some of those in the serpentine queue returned to their homes, he said.

After an EVM machine stopped working in Yavatmal constituency, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance candidate Bhavana Gawali requested the Election Commission to extend the poll timings in that booth.

The state Congress unit sent 39 complaints to the Election Commission about "glitches" in the functioning of EVMs at some booths in six Lok Sabha seats, the party said.

Prominent among those who voted in the first phase were Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Gadkari (Nagpur) and former Union minister Praful Patel (Bhandara-Gondiya).

West Bengal

IMAGE: A young woman voter shows her finger marked with indelible ink after casting vote during the first phase of the general elections, at a polling station in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal. Photograph: PTI Photo

An estimated of 80.85 per cent of 34.52 lakh voters exercised their franchise in the two Lok Sabha constituencies of West Bengal, officials said.

"Today we had a peaceful polling in the two constituencies of Coochbehar and Alipurduar. However, There have been some isolated incidents," Chief Electoral Officer Ariz Aftab said.

While 80.11 per cent voters cast their votes in Cooch Behar (SC) constituency, 81.58 per cent polling was recorded in Alipurduar (ST) seat, till 5 pm, he said.

Eight persons seven in Coochbehar and one in Alipurduar were arrested as a part of protective measures, ADG (Law and Order) Siddh Nath Gupta said adding that three FIRs were lodged.

One incident of skirmish happened outside a polling station at Dinhata in Coochbehar, while polling was stopped at a booth in Sitalkuchi for some time after the data of mock poll were found not deleted there, he said.

A case was lodged against five persons in Mathabhanga for their alleged involvement in vandalising a vehicle of the Forward Bloc, a constituent of the CPI(M)-led Left Front.

One presiding officer at Sitalkuchi was showcased following complaints that he had allowed some persons inside the booth.

IMAGE: A woman shows her ink-stained finger after voting at a polling centre during the first phase of general election in Alipurduar district in West Bengal. Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

The ruling Trinamool Congress complained that polling was not free and fair in the two parliamentary seats.

On that, Aftab said, "There was no reports of any major incident of violence. Whenever we got any complaint, we took appropriate action. Tomorrow there will be scrutiny of the complaints and in case if there is anything we will take necessary actions."

On a complaint about a BSF jawan entering a booth, Gupta said the matter was taken up with the BSF authorities.

A total of 34,51,883 electorate in the two constituencies will decide the fate of 18 candidates.

The ruling TMC and the BJP are the main contenders in the two north Bengal seats, while Left Front constituents Forward Bloc and RSP are fighting to prove their existence.

Polling in the remaining 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state will be held in six more phases.

Odisha

IMAGE: Voters stand outside a polling booth in Berhampur. Photograph: ANI Photo

Brisk polling was recorded in Odisha with around 70 per cent of the over 60 lakh electorate casting their votes in four Lok Sabha and 28 assembly constituencies.

No untoward incident was reported from any part of the state and polling for the first of four-phase of Odisha elections was undertaken peacefully, Chief Electoral Officer Surendra Kumar said.

However, there were reports of poll boycott by villagers in some places over local issues, while zero polling was recorded in some Maoist-hit areas of Malkangiri district, he said. "Around half-a-dozen booths in Chitrakonda area of Malkangiri recorded "zero polling," the CEO said.

In Kalimela block of Malkangiri district, a man, who was waiting to vote outside a booth, collapsed and died, apparently due to scorching heat, a police officer said.

The man has been identified as Bhima Kabasi (45) of MPV-74 village in the district, he added.

As per reports received from the constituencies, approximately 70 per cent of the electorate has cast their votes, an official in CEO's office said.

In several Maoist-affected areas, long queues of voters were seen outside the polling stations, he said.

"Of the 28 assembly constituencies that went to polls Thursday, 20 were in Maoist-affected areas of the state. Barring six to seven booths in Malkangiri, where no votes were polled all day, people came out in large numbers in the Maoist belts to exercise their franchise," the CEO stated.

IMAGE: First-time voter Sugyani Sahoo is all smiles after casting her vote in Berhampur. Photograph: ANI Photo

Similarly, the election office has also received reports of "poll boycott from a couple of places", where people chose to skip voting over various local issues and demands, he said.

The CEO asserted that the election department officials have attended to all reports of technical glitches in EVM operations.

"In 7,233 EVMs, only 169 VVPAT, 62 ballot units and 65 control units had to be replaced, which is negligible. All poll personnel have undergone extensive training to attend to such glitches," he said.

Admitting that the poll process was delayed in some booths of Koraput, Kalahandi, Nabarangpur and Berhampur districts owing to the glitches, Kumar said the process, however, picked up pace after corrective measures were taken.

"For the first time in the state, 18,500 braille ballot papers were made available at the booths to aid visually impaired voters," the CEO said, adding that arrangements were also made to provide wheelchairs to the
differently abled and elderly persons.

Prominent among those who voted Thursday were former union minister Chandra Sekhar Sahoo, who is the BJD candidate from Berhampur Lok Sabha seat and BJP Odisha unit president Basant Panda, also in the fray from Kalahandi Lok Sabha seat.

Jammu-Kashmir

IMAGE: An elderly voter is assisted as she arrives to cast vote during the first phase of the general elections, at a polling station in Jammu. Photograph: PTI Photo

Jammu and Kashmir recorded an overall turnout of over 55 per cent in the Jammu and Baramulla constituencies in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections, even as there were protests over defective EVMs in some areas.

The two constituencies house over 33 lakh electorate.

The overall turnout was 55-56 per cent, with the Jammu Lok Sabha constituency recording 72.19 per cent polling and Baramulla registering 35.01 per cent, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Shaliendra Kumar told reporters here.

Polling was largely peaceful, Kumar said, adding that there was, however, one incident of firing in Palhalan of Baramulla and it was being looked into.

To a question on the complaints of EVM malfunctions, the official said, "We have rectified all of them."

Congress candidate from Jammu, Raman Bhalla, who cast his vote in Jammu, had alleged large scale EVM malfunction in Poonch and Mendhar belt of the constituency. He said people protested over the issue. Another Congress spokesman had claimed that in the EVMs, button number four of the Congress was not functioning and complaints were lodged with poll officials.

Former minister and senior Congress leader Shabir Khan had told reporters in Rajouri during the day that defective EVMs had been sent to remote and rural areas of Rajouri and Poonch. But nothing has been done to repair the machines, he had alleged.

IMAGE: People wait in a queue to cast their votes outside a polling station in Jammu. Photograph: Mukesh Gupta/Reuters

While polling was underway, the National Conference and the PDP had alleged that uniformed personnel "coerced" had people to vote for the BJP.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted a video showing voters raising anti-BJP slogans after they were allegedly "roughed up" by BSF jawans for not voting for the saffron party.

"A voter at polling booth in Jammu was manhandled by the BSF because he refused to cast his vote for BJP. Using armed forces at polling stations to coerce people to vote for the BJP shows their desperation & hunger to usurp power by hook or crook," she said in her tweet.

To this, the chief electoral officer said a BSF assistant commandant and a few other personnel were replaced following the incident over dereliction of duty as they were unable to handle the situation.

He, however, counselled politicians to verify facts before putting them in the public domain as he said BSF personnel were not involved in beating the people.

While Jammu district recorded 72.19 per cent polling, Samba registered the highest turnout of 73.8 per cent, followed by Rajouri district with 65.7 per cent and Poonch with 68 percent, they said.

In the Baramulla seat, Kupwara district registered the highest turnout of 47.7 per cent, followed by Bandipora (30.1 per cent), Baramulla (22.3 per cent), while Kashmiri migrants polled 45 per cent for Baramulla seat, they added.

In Rajouri and Poonch border districts, people along the Line of Control came out in large numbers to exercise their franchise, the officials added.

Bihar

IMAGE: An elderly man shows his finger during the first phase of the general elections, at a polling station in Nawada district of Bihar. Photograph: PTI Photo

The Election Commission said Bihar saw 50 per cent turnout, the lowest for the first phase. The two seats in J&K -- Jammu and Baramulla -- recorded 54.49 per cent vote, down from 57.19 per cent in 2014.

The state also saw protests over defective EVMs in some areas and at least one incident of firing.

Altogether 70.52 lakh voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in the four Lok Sabha seats which had 44 candidates in the fray.

"Polling passed off peacefully with sporadic incidents of EVM tampering, attempt to loot booths after which the police had to resort to firing in the open to disperse and control the anti-social elements," CEO said.

Aurangabad witnessed 49.85 per cent of voting while Gaya recorded 56.0 per cent, Nawada 52.5 per cent and Jamui 54 per cent, Srinivas said adding that the poll percentage of the four constituencies could increase once the final figures reach the state election office.

IMAGE: An elderly woman shows her finger marked with indelible ink and voter identity card after casting vote during the first phase of the general elections, at a polling station in Jamui district of Bihar. Photograph: PTI Photo

Incidents of poll boycott were reported from some places in Jamui and Nawada constituencies while the police recovered three bombs, including a cane bomb.

Voting at a polling station of Nawada Lok Sabha seat was withheld for some time following the arrest of a polling officer who was found in a drunken state, official sources said.

Polling resumed at the booth after he was arrested, the sources said.

Mizoram

IMAGE: A woman belonging to the Reang Bru tribe waits outside a polling station, before casting her vote during the first phase of general elections, at Mamit district of Mizoram. Photograph: PTI Photo

Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer Ashish Kundra said the provisional figure on the voter turnout in the election to the lone Lok Sabha seat and by-poll to the Aizawl West-I seat was 61.95 per cent at five pm and was most likely to go up.

The CEO said that the final and exact figure would be available only after all the electronic voting machine reached the district headquarters.

He said polling was peaceful and there was no report of any violence from anywhere in the state.

"Many of the polling stations were too remote and communication problem persisted even as wireless communication back-up was in place, especially in the southern most Lawngtlaidistrict," he said.

Kundra said those voters who had entered the polling area at five pm would be allowed to exercise franchise which would definitely increase the poll percentage.

The final poll turnout at the 15 special polling stations in Mizoram-Tripura border Kanhmun village established for 12,081 Bru voters lodged in the six relief camps in North Tripura district was 33.54 per cent and could still go up, the CEO said.

Six candidates are in the fray for the Lok Sabha seat and three nominees for the assembly byelection.

Arunachal

IMAGE: Female voters displaying identity cards, at a polling booth, during the first phase of elections at Itanagar. Photograph: ANI Photo

An estimated 66 per cent of the voters in Arunachal Pradesh exercised their franchise to elect members of the state assembly and the two Lok Sabha MPs, an election official said.

Arunachal Pradesh has a total of 7,94,162 voters, including 4,01,601 women. Elections to the state Assembly and two Lok Sabha seats were held simultaneously.

"Reports from several remote polling booths are yet to be received by this office and even in some polling stations polling is continuing, so the polling percentage will increase," Darang said.

He said that barring a few sporadic incidents of violence and damage of EVM, the polling was by and large peaceful in the state.

Three persons were seriously injured at Pipsorang circle under Tali assembly constituency in Kurung Kumey district after clash took place between supporters of two rival political parties, DGP S B K Singh said.

The injured have been immediately evacuated to Itanagar by a chopper requisitioned by the district administration, the DGP added.

Darang said that as per available reports, polling in 133 booths could not be conducted due to various reasons like damage of EVMs and malfunctioning of voting machines where re-polling would be held.

"Re-polling will be done only after recommendations of the respective district election officers which will be forwarded to the Election Commission and accordingly the Commission will decide," Darang disclosed.

Uttarakhand

Over 57 per cent of the electorate in Uttarakhand cast their vote to seal the fate of 52 candidates as polling was held in the first phase of the general elections to its five Lok Sabha seats.

The turnout recorded at 5 pm across the five seats was 57.85 per cent, Chief Electoral Officer Soujanya said.

Nainital Lok Sabha seat recorded the highest voter turnout at 66.39 per cent followed by Haridwar which recorded 66.24 per cent polling, she said.

Tehri recorded 54.38 per cent, Pauri 49.89 and Almora 48.78 per cent, Soujanya said.

In the Kumaon region, people of at least a dozen villages and four polling booths in Chamoli district of Pauri constituency reportedly boycotted the polls, complaining of lack of roads despite repeated complaints to the state government.

The village adopted by Congress Rajya Sabha MP and the party's Almora candidate Pradeep Tamta also boycotted the elections.

Though people had begun to queue up outside polling booths even before voting began at 7 am, polling picked up pace as the day advanced, Soujanya said.

The officer said 61.14 voter turnout had been recorded in Uttarakhand in the 2014 general elections.

Prominent candidates in the fray are former chief minister Harish Rawat, sitting MPs Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Mala Rajya Lakxmi Shah and Ajay Tamta.

The five constituencies are witnessing straight contests between the BJP and the Congress. The saffron party is looking to defend all the seats.

The BJP has gambled on relatively new faces in two seats by fielding state party president Ajay Bhatt in place of sitting MP Bhagat Singh Koshiyari against Harish Rawat in Nainital and former MLA Tirath Singh Rawat in place of sitting MP B C Khanduri from Pauri.

Tirath Singh is pitted against Khanduri's son Manish, who is the Congress nominee.

The fate of 52 candidates is being decided by a total of 7856268 voters in Uttarakhand out of which 371220 are women, Saujanya said.

Modi and Rahul's message to voters

As the Lok Sabha elections began on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged voters to turn out in large numbers to exercise their franchise.

"I call upon all those whose constituencies are voting in the first phase today to turn out in record numbers and exercise their franchise," he tweeted.

"I specially urge young and first-time voters to vote in large numbers," he said.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi urged voters to vote wisely for the soul of India and its future.

Referring to promises made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi before assuming power, Gandhi reminded voters that instead of jobs and Rs 15 lakh in bank accounts of people, the Modi government has given them "no jobs, distrust, violence, hate and fear".

"You vote today for the soul of India. For her future. Vote wisely," he said on Twitter.

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