VOTING turnouts continued to rise to dizzy levels in the biggest phase of the 2014 elections, a sign that voters plan to return a more decisive vote than most expect. In Barmer, where former finance minister and BJP rebel leader Jaswant Singh is contesting against chief minister Vasundhara Rajeís candidate Colonel Sonaram Choudhary, voting levels rose from 54% in 2009 to 71.44, the second-highest in the state.
Though the election was marred by Maoist violence in Jharkhand where four CRPF jawans were injured and railway tracks blown up, turnout levels were dramatically higher in key states.
At around 55%, there was a 20 percentage points (ppt) hike in the turnout in Bihar over 2009 and an 8-10 ppt hike in Uttar Pradesh, another key battleground for the BJP. In Karnataka, another key state, voter turnout rose from 58.5% to 68%. Madhya Pradesh, however, didnít see much of a jump in turnout as compared to 2009.
Among notable candidates who cast their votes on Thursday were Nandan Nilekani (Congress), Maneka Gandhi (BJP), former prime minister HD Deve Gowda (JD-S), union ministers Veerappa Moily (Congress) and Srikant Jena, Supriya Sule (NCP) and Lalu Prasad's eldest daughter Misa Bharti.
A total of 1,769 candidates are competing to represent 121 constituencies in this phase.