On a day dominated by the wall-to-wall coverage on the electronic media of the road show which preceded the filing of nomination papers to the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency by the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, a record number of voters turned up to exercise their franchise for the 117 constituencies in the six phase of the election spread over 11 states and one union territory.
There was a sense of despondency and concern till the evening on whether the voting per cent in the financial capital of the country-Mumbai would cross the 46 per cent recorded in the 2009 election. However, when the voting finished it was well above the 46 per cent though the exact figures for the constituencies in Mumbai were not available at the time of filing of this report.
A remarkable feature of the election so far, involving 347 of 543 Lok Sabha constituencies and the election to the Orissa Assembly, has been that barring a couple of incidents by process has been peaceful and controversy free. In the latest phase a policeman died in Assam's Kokrajhar district in BSF firing to ward off mobs trying to capture a booth and a suspected Maoist attack on a poll team in Jharkhand.
The highest turnout of 83 per cent was recorded in the lone seat of Puducherry followed by West Bengal (82 per cent for six seats), Assam (77.05 per cent) and 73 per cent for all the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu.
Only two states -- Rajasthan (59.2 per cent for five seats) and Maharashtra (55.33 per cent for 19 seats) -- registered below 60 per cent turnout but in both cases it was higher than 2009.
Lot was at stake for the Congress and the BJP in the current phase. Of the 117 seats up for grabs, Congress holds 37 while BJP has 24. If one were to add 18 seats held by DMK, which it contested in alliance with the Congress, the ruling party has to retain most of these seats to be in the reckoning in formation of the new government.
Current round is a test for two Chief Ministers -- J. Jayalalitha and Mamta Banerjee -- four former Chief Ministers -- Mulayum Singh Yadav, Karunanidhi, Shibu Soren and Babulal Marandi, President Pranab Mukherjee, who represented Jangipur constituency before his election to the high office in 2012 and subsequently by his son Abhijeet, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and several prominent union ministers.
Tamil Nadu is the exciting contest as the BJP which succeeded in forging a six-party alliance trying its luck for a debut. It is one state where the pan-India appeal of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi would be tested.
Besides for the first time since it lost power in 1967 never to return to Fort St. George, the seat of power of the Tamil Nadu government, the Congress is going on its own. The left parties CPI and CPM whose alliance with AIADMK came apart are also compelled to plough a lone furrow. It is AIADMK vs. DMK and untested BJP led alliance. In the outgoing Lok Sabha DMK has 18 seats and AIADMK 9.
Another important contest was in Maharashtra where took place for 19 seats, including six in Mumbai, all of them held by Congress and its ally NCP. Prominent candidates in fray include Union Minister Milind Deora (Mumbai-South) and Priya Dutt (Mumbai-North Central).
Again in West Bengal, where the Congress is going alone, it is a big challenge for the party as it fought the 2009 poll as an alliance partner of Trinamool Congress. Five of the six seats that are going to polls- Raiganj, Maldaha Uttar, Maldaha Dakshin, Jangipur and Murshidabad -- are held by the Congress.
The fourth phase of polling in UP saw voting in constituencies contested by SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mainpuri), his daughter-in-law Dimple Yadav in Kannauj.
This article has been corrected for a factual error