New Delhi: The curtain on Monday came down on marathon Lok Sabha elections with an all-time record high turnout of 66.38 per cent as the final phase of polling covering 41 seats in three states replicated the trend of increased voters` participation seen in the previous 8 rounds.
The overall turnout in all the nine phases of polling this year stood at 66.38 per cent, posting the highest in the history of Lok Sabha elections, surpassing the previous best of 64.01 per cent in 1984 in the wake of the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The turnout in 2009 was 58.19 per cent.
The polling today in 18 seats of Uttar Pradesh, 17 in West Bengal and six in Bihar was by and large peaceful barring stray violence in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal which left 13 people injured.
The highest polling today was recorded in West Bengal, where stakes are high for Trinamool Congress hoping to retain all the 14 of the 17 seats decided in the last phase and gain a few more in its final push to position itself as a key player nationally post-poll.
Bihar registered the second highest turnout in the last round with 58 per cent followed by Uttar Pradesh 55.29 percent.
The turnout in Varanasi, one of the the most high-profile constituencies where Narendra Modi is pitted against AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal and Congress` Ajai Rai, was pegged at 55.34 per cent. It also witnessed a controversy over Rai displaying his party`s poll symbol, following which an FIR was registered against the Congress nominee.
Over nine crore voters were eligible to seal the fate of 606 candidates, including Modi, Kejriwal and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav (Azamgarh) in the ninth phase of polling.
In Bihar, the turnout today was over 12 per cent higher in these seats than that in the last general elections in 2009 as voters ignored the searing sun and came out in large number in the six constituencies in the state where film-maker Prakash Jha and former union minister Raghubansh Prasad Singh were among the 90 candidates.
In Uttar Pradesh, the highest turnout was recorded in Maharajganj 54.40 per cent followed by Varanasi and Azamgarh (52.3)
As many as 328 candidates, including Modi and Mulayam Singh Yadav from Azamgarh, are in fray in this last leg of polling.
In 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Samajwadi Party had clinched six of the 18 seats where polling was held today, BSP five, BJP four and Congress had managed three seats.
The outcome of today`s polling in eastern part of UP was crucial for BJP`s hopes of a final push towards its march towards regaining power at the Centre and much would depend on its ability to break the entrenched caste loyalties to SP and BSP which are trying to check the saffron surge.
Polling in West Bengal went off more or less peacefully barring the injury to 13 persons were injured in a clash between CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress supporters at Haroa in North 24 Parganas district hosting Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency.
The state recorded 79.96 per cent turn out amid sporadic violence that left 25 persons injured - five seriously.
Prominent candidates in the state were TMC`s Sudip Bandyopadhyay in Kolkata North, Dinesh Trivedi in Barrackpore and Sougata Roy in Dum Dum, besides film stars like Dipak Adhikari (Dev) in Ghatal and Tapas Paul in Krishnagar, Trinamool Yuva President Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of Mamata Banerjee, in Diamond Harbour, magician P C Sorcar (Junior) of BJP in Barasat, WBPCC President Adhir Chowdhury in Berhampore and CPI(M)`s Subhasini Ali from Barrackpore.
Also contesting was former finance minister Asim Dasgupta of the CPI-M and former union minister Tapan Sikdar of BJP in Dum Dum.