Brisk polling in final phase as nearly 50% vote till 3pm across 8 states

Polling was held in 13 seats in Punjab, 13 in Uttar Pradesh including the high-profile Varanasi constituency from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a third consecutive term, 9 in West Bengal, 8 in Bihar, 6 in Odisha, 4 in Himachal Pradesh, 3 in Jharkhand, and the lone Chandigarh seat.

Voters turned out in large numbers on Saturday as nearly 50% of the electorate exercised their franchise across 57 constituencies in the seventh and final phase of the marathon 2024 Lok Sabha elections until 3 pm.

Polling was held in 13 seats in Punjab, 13 in Uttar Pradesh including the high-profile Varanasi constituency from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a third consecutive term, 9 in West Bengal, 8 in Bihar, 6 in Odisha, 4 in Himachal Pradesh, 3 in Jharkhand, and the lone Chandigarh seat.

Despite scorching temperatures in parts of North India, voters queued up outside polling booths since early morning across the eight states and Union Territory to cast their ballots and have their say in who will lead the nation for the next five years.

In a tweet earlier in the day, PM Modi urged people to vote in large numbers, saying. Opposition leaders like Congress’ Rahul Gandhi also appealed for a robust turnout.

The high-stakes final phase brought the marathon seven-phase polls, conducted amid tensions between the ruling BJP and opposition parties, to a close after over a month of voting. Over 900 million Indians were eligible to vote to elect 543 members to the Lok Sabha.

Among the prominent candidates in the fray were PM Modi himself from Varanasi, senior BJP leaders like Ravi Shankar Prasad and Nishikant Dubey, as well as controversial figures like actress Kangana Ranaut. The opposition Congress party fielded candidates like Vikramaditya Singh, Sayooni Ghosh and Amritpal Singh, while former Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah contested for a seat in the region.

As the polling drew to a close in the evening, all eyes turned to the thorny process of exit polls and the eventual vote counting on June 4th to determine whether Modi’s BJP-led NDA alliance can secure another term or if the opposition parties manage to unseat them.

The Congress alleged it had to lodge 117 complaints with the Election Commission, including 14 against the PM, accusing the BJP of numerous poll code violations. It opted not to participate in any TV exit poll debates.

Tragically, 13 poll personnel died in Mirzapur in UP amid reports of high fever and blood pressure. Authorities are investigating the causes.

With a fiercely contested campaign, the election emerges as a critical test for the world’s largest democracy and the political fortunes of its main players.