The second phase of parliamentary elections in India ended relatively peacefully today in all but the rebel-affected state of Jharkhand.
Millions queued outside polling booths across 13 states in the world’s largest democracy. The 2,041 candidates who battled it out today had spent the past few months rallying for the support of over 190 million people registered to vote in this phase.
Two railway workers were reported missing after an attack by Maoist rebels on a station near Medininagar in Jharkhand. In the first phase of polls on April 16 at least 17 people were killed by the rebels.
Soaring temperatures took their toll on voters and officials alike as two polling officers were killed by heatstroke in the state of Orissa.
The fate of many political heavyweights including the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s great grandson Rahul Gandhi have been locked in the electronic voting machines. Votes in all seats will be counted on May 16 Cabinet minister Ram Vilas Paswan is seeking election in Hajipur in Bihar. Another cabinet member, Sharad Pawar, is standing in Madha in Madhya Pradesh.
For most seats, the ruling Congress Party is fighting with main opposition Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP).
Many small and regional parties are also trying to make their mark in national politics.
The Bahujan Samaj Party is expected to put a strong show in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Maoist rebels attacked a railway police camp in Singhbhum district in the state to disrupt polls just a few hours after voting started.
They also triggered an explosion in Girdih to stop voters heading to polling booths. Two polling officials were injured when the rebels detonated a bomb which struck an official vehicle.
A railway station building and tracks were bombed in Palamau district to disrupt train services.
Heavy firing between Maoists and security forces was also reported near the West Bengal border.
They blew up the Chianki railway station, near Medininagar, and exploded bombs on the tracks in the area, Deputy Commissioner Amitabh Kaushal said. Two railway staff were reported missing.
Meanwhile, Muslim “hate-speech” politician Varun Gandhi filed his nomination from Pilibhit yesterday. He is currently out on bail for two weeks granted by the Supreme Court. He is a BJP candidate.
The states which voted today are Andhra Pradesh with 20 Lok Sabha seats, Assam 11, Bihar 13, Goa two, Jammu and Kashmir one, Karnataka 17, Madhya Pradesh 13, Maharashtra 25, Orissa 11, Tripura two, Uttar Pradesh 17 and Jharkhand eight.
Polling ended in most areas at 5pm local time, except in rebel-affected areas where it stopped at 3pm local time.
Yesterday the Maoists had hijacked a train in Latehar district. However, after a three-hour stand-off they freed all 700 passengers on board.
Elections will be held in five phases for 543 seats over a month.