About 64 per cent of voters exercised their franchise till 6 pm on Thursday in eight Lok Sabha constituencies of western Uttar Pradesh that went to polls in the first phase. Estimating an average voter turnout of 63.69 per cent, the poll officials said the percentage is likely to increase a little as it was still an hour left for the voting.
Polling was brisk during morning hours, but it slowed down in afternoon, picking up again towards the evening with enthusiastic voters, mostly first-timers, lining up in long queues outside several polling centres. Poll officials said till 6 pm Saharanpur recorded maximum voter turnout at 70.68 per cent, while the least turnout was reported for Ghaziabad Lok Sabha seat where it stood at 57.60 per cent.
The polling percentage in Meerut and Baghpat stood at 63 around 63.90 per cents respectively. The voting percentage in Kairana was 62.10 percent, Muzaffarnagar 65.66 percent, Bijnor 65.40 per cent and 60.15 per cent in Gautam Buddha Nagar, they said.
At a Kairana polling booth, a BSF jawan fired in air to disperse some people, who were not carrying their identity cards and tried to forcibly enter the premises to cast vote, police said. The incident took place at a polling booth in Rasoolpur Gujran village under Kandhla police station around noon.
In Muzaffarnagar, BJP MP Sanjeev Balyan stoked a controversy by demanding that male officials check the identity of burqa-clad women at poll stations where women security personnel had not been posted. "If someone comes in a burqa, whether the same person is coming four or five times, how will you check," Balyan told reporters in Muzaffarnagar.
Three Union ministers - VK Singh (Ghaziabad), Satyapal Singh (Baghpat) and Mahesh Sharma (Gautam Buddha Nagar) -- are in the fray in the first leg of the seven-phase polls. The BJP had won all the eight seats in 2014 Lok Sabha elections but lost Kairana seat in a by-poll held later.
The communally sensitive seat of Muzaffarnagar is witnessing a clash between RLD chief Ajit Singh and Balyan. Some security personnel on election duty in Noida were served meals in packets labelled "Namo Foods", triggering criticism from the opposition even after the local police said the packs only displayed the name of the food shop.
The Bahujan Samaj Party said it has complained to the Election Commission. "NaMo" are widely-recognised Hindi initials of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, previously seen on BJP merchandise and recently as the name of a TV channel.
The packets were brought in the boot of a hatchback and distributed among police personnel in Noida's sector 15A around 9.30 am, while polling was on in the Gautam Buddh Nagar constituency under which the Delhi suburb falls. Union minister Mahesh Sharma is the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate seeking re-election there.
The packets, coloured in a shade of saffron, had 'Namo Foods' emblazoned on top in Hindi. They soon started generating a buzz among curious onlookers. When contacted in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer L Venkateshwarlu said he has already spoken with the district magistrate on the issue. It is nothing related to the prime minister as the name of the company itself is Namo," he told PTI.
In the first phase, 1,50,65,682 voters - 82,24,835 men, 68,39,833 women and 1,014 third gender - were eligible to exercise their franchise in 16,518 booths set up inside 6,716 polling centres to decide the fate of 96 candidates.
Politically crucial Uttar Pradesh sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. Of the 80 seats in UP, the Samajwadi Party is contesting on 37 seats, BSP on 38, and the RLD on three seats.