Modi caught in row as millions vote in India
Braving the heat, millions voted Wednesday in 89 Lok Sabha constituencies, including Sonia Gandhi's Rae Bareli, even as BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi ran foul of the Election Commission for flashing his party symbol near a polling booth.
An estimated 45 percent of of the 139 million electorate had voted by 3 p.m. in seven states and two union territories, the exception being Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar where polling was low amid a boycott call by separatists.
There was no incident of violence in any place including the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh which also voted for a legislature which would be part of the proposed state.
A total of 1,295 candidates are in the fray in the 89 Lok Sabha constituencies spread across Gujarat (26), Andhra Pradesh (17), Uttar Pradesh (14), Punjab (13), West Bengal (9), Bihar (7) and Jammu and Kashmir, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu (one each).
Among the constituencies that saw brisk polling Wednesday are Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh and Gandhinagar in Gujarat from where Congress president Sonia Gandhi and BJP patriarch L.K. Advani are contesting respectively.
There was also heavy balloting in Lucknow, the ailing Atal Bihari Vajpayee's former constituency where the BJP's candidate now is its chief, Rajnath Singh.
After casting his vote in Gandhinagar, Modi flew to Bihar where he addressed a huge rally in Ujiyarpur Lok Sabha constituency calling for "a strong government in the country".
"It is certain a new government led by the BJP will be formed," he said, predicting a defeat for the Congress-led UPA government.
But before that, Modi ran into trouble with the Election Commission after he flashed a badge of the BJP's election symbol "lotus" while addressing a press conference in Gandhinagar.
Amid protests by the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Election Commission ordered the Gujarat authorities to file a First Information Report against Modi and the electronic media that showed him flashing the "lotus" near the polling booth -- in violation of election laws.
All 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat and all 13 in Punjab voted Thursday, taking to 21 where the election process has ended.
Punjab is witnessing some high-profile contests. The most watched clash is in Amritsar where BJP's Arun Jaitley, fighting a Lok Sabha election for the first time, is pitted against former chief minister Amarinder Singh of the Congress.
In Amethi, which is set to vote in a week from now, Congress star campaigner Priyanka Gandhi continued to campaign for party vice president and her brother Rahul Gandhi.
With Rahul Gandhi facing the heat from BJP's Smriti Irani and AAP's Kumar Vishwas, Priyanka Gandhi told election meetings that her family had abiding links with the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency. "Rahul understands that people are the final arbiter. I know he sincerely works for you."
In Andhra Pradesh, nine of the 10 districts which constitute the Telangana region recorded brisk voting. Voter turnout was low in Hyderabad in the initial hours.
Prominent among the contestants for Lok Sabha elections include union cabinet Minister S. Jaipal Reddy (Mahabubnagar), Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao (Medak) and Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi (Hyderabad).
Speaking after voting in the Lok Sabha and assembly elections, TRS chief Rao said he was confident of his party forming a government on its own strength in the proposed state of Telangana. - IANS