Much like it was in the seventh phase on April 24, Wednesday was a day of fairly high voter turnout as the Indian electorate went to polls in the crucial eighth phase of the elections to the 16th Lok Sabha. Unlike in the last round, though, when polling was held in Mumbai, the celebrity quotient on Wednesday was far lower, with eminent economist Amartya Sen, who exercised his franchise in Bolpur, West Bengal, among the few star voters.
Among those whose fortunes were decided are Narendra Modi, the BJPís prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat chief minister. Modi, who cast his vote early in the day, is contesting from both Vadodara in Gujarat and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, where he is up against Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party and Ajay Rai of the Congress.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi is defending her seat in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh, while BJP president Rajnath Singh is contesting from Lucknow. In UP, Indiaís largest state, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the BJP are locked in a direct contest for nine of the 14 seats for which polling was held on Wednesday. Other high-profile constituencies include Gandhinagar in Gujarat, where former deputy prime minister LK Advani is defending his seat, and Srinagar, from where National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah is contesting. BSP chief Mayawati was among those who exercised their franchise on Wednesday.
The last two phases of the elections will be held on May 7 and 12, while the counting will be done on May 16. While West Bengal saw a massive turnout of 81.35% for the nine seats for which polls were held on Wednesday, Punjab saw a record 73% for 13 seats and Telangana region 70% for 17 seats.
The numbers were a shade more modest at 60% in Bihar, where elections were held for seven seats, and 57.10% in Uttar Pradesh where polling was held for 14 seats. In Gujarat, 62% of voters exercised their franchise for 26 seats. In Dadra and Nagar Haveli the turnout was 85% while in Daman and Diu it was 76%.
Modi, who attracted huge crowds when he went to vote, also found himself in the midst of a controversy with the police filing an FIR against him for displaying the party symbol and delivering a speech in a polling booth.