West Bengal leads way as voter turnout picks up in phase 6 of India’s elections

As of 1 p.m. local time (0530 GMT), overall voter turnout stood at 39.13% across the nine states holding polls in this latest phase, according to figures from India’s Electoral Commission cited by the ANI news agency.

Voter turnout across India’s north and east steadily rose through mid-afternoon on Sunday as the mammoth country’s drawn-out national elections pushed into their pivotal 6th phase, with the eastern state of West Bengal emerging as an early participation leader.

As of 1 p.m. local time (0530 GMT), overall voter turnout stood at 39.13% across the nine states holding polls in this latest phase, according to figures from India’s Electoral Commission cited by the ANI news agency.

West Bengal, a key battleground where tensions have run high, reported the highest voter participation rate at around 55% as of that benchmark.

Voter turnout was significantly lower in the national capital of New Delhi, however, with just 34.37% of the electorate casting ballots so far according to the interim figures. Other states that have voted so far Sunday included Uttar Pradesh (37.23% turnout), Bihar (36.48%), and Jammu and Kashmir (35.22%), a region plagued by boycott calls and separatist violence.

Sunday’s polls will decide 59 parliamentary seats across the nine states, representing another key test for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as it seeks to retain power.

Nearly 90 million people were eligible to vote in this latest round, with a total of 979 candidates vying for the 59 seats. Tight security measures were in place across polling stations deemed terror risks.

Despite scattered incidents of violence marring the weeks-long staggered polls, authorities have tried to emphasize the largely peaceful nature of the world’s biggest democratic exercise.

The counts so far on Sunday have fallen roughly in line with interim turnout rates from the previous five phases of voting, which have hovered around 63-67%, according to election data. Yet the varying regional turnout figures point to potential bright spots and causes for concern for the BJP and opposition parties alike in some key battleground states.

Conversely, turnout in Uttar Pradesh – India’s most populous state and a key BJP stronghold vital to any coalition math – remained modest, which could signal either voter apathy or a tight race with regional opposition groups gaining ground.

With nearly two-thirds of India’s 900 million eligible voters having already cast ballots, all eyes will remain trained on turnout levels as Sunday’s polls wind down.