Chandigarh: Barring stray incidents, polling remained peaceful in 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana which witnessed healthy voter turnout of over 73 percent on Thursday and Union Territory Chandigarh created a record of highest ever poll percentage of nearly 72 percent.
Polling began on a slow note in Haryana this morning but picked up pace as the day progressed and heavy voter turnout was witnessed at various places including Kurukshetra and Sirsa.
"Over 1.6 crore eligible voters were to cast votes in the state," officials said, adding that polling was by and large peaceful.
Long queues were seen outside the booths at most of the places in Haryana, where polling was held in single phase and lone Lok Sabha seat of Chandigarh.
Haryana`s Chief Electoral Officer Shrikant Walgad told a news agency over phone that over 73 percent of the voters had cast their votes and the polling by and large ended on a peaceful note this evening.
In 2009, the voters` turnout in the state was 68 percent while 65.72 percent in 2004.
Chandigarh`s Deputy Commissioner-cum-Returning Officer Mohd Shayin said the Union Territory had recorded highest ever poll percentage in history, as it was set to cross 72 percent even as final figures were being tabulated.
He said the polling, which started at 7 AM, remained peaceful in Chandigarh and queues could be seen inside booths even after the deadline for polling ended at 6 pm.
The DC said the voting began on a brisk note and over six lakh voters, including 2.8 lakh women, were eligible to exercise their franchise.
It is a four-cornered contest among candidates of Congress, BJP-HJC BL combine, main opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana.
In Hisar, eight supporters of INLD and Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC-BL) were injured in clash in Azad Nagar area in Nalwa constituency of Hisar parliamentary seat over claims of "bogus voting" in a booth following which voting had to be suspended for a while in the affected booth.
HJC supremo and sitting MP Kuldeep Bishnoi, who is taking on INLD`s greenhorn Dushyant Chautala, also received minor injuries on his finger, sources said.
In Haryana, the key candidates among a total of 230 whose fate has been sealed in the EVMs include Deepender Hooda, Avtar Singh Bhadana, Shruti Chaudhry (Congress), former Union Minister Rao Inderjit Singh (BJP) who is taking on Yogendra Yadav of AAP.
In a departure from the past trends of moderate voting in Chandigarh including 65.45 percent in 2009 (highest), 51.14 percent in 2004 and over 48.35 percent in 1999, three occasions when Bansal had won, people queued up at the booths since morning which included 101-year-old father of BJP contestant Kirron Kher.
According to a report, voters in Kakaut village in Kaithal district today boycotted the Lok Sabha poll to protest against the inclusion of their village in Kalayat Assembly constituency in the last delimitation and demanded reinclusion in Kaithal Assembly constituency.
There was a great enthusiasm among first-time voters and in Chandigarh`s rural areas. Out of the total electorate, nearly 60 percent fell in age group of 18-40 years.
There are 17 candidates in the fray from Chandigarh LS seat, including former Railway Minister PK Bansal (Congress), who is seeking re-election for the fifth term and pitted against three women in the four-cornered contest.
However, two prominent women pitted against Bansal are actor-turned-politician Kirron Kher of BJP and actor and former Miss India Gul Panag of AAP. Kher and Panag are not registered as voters in Chandhigarh. The other prominent woman candidate in the fray from here is BSP`s Jannat Jahan-ul-Haq.
Bansal accompanied by his family members, cast his vote in Sector 28 polling booth this morning while Kirron Kher, who has her vote in Mumbai, accompanied her 101-year-old father and other family members to a polling station in Sector 8.
In Haryana, HJC chief Kuldeep Bishnoi was among those who cast their vote early. He was accompanied by his MLA-wife Renuka and other family members and exercised franchise at Adampur in Hisar district.
AAP`s leader and Gurgaon candidate Yogendra Yadav cast his vote in Saharanwas village in Rewari district while greenhorn and INLD candidate from Hisar, Dushyant Chautala in Sirsa.
Congress` candidate from Rohtak Deepender Singh Hooda, son of Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda, missed his date with the ballot as he was undergoing treatment at All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) in New Delhi, for his back ailment, sources said.
Chief Minister Hooda accompanied by his wife Asha and other family members cast votes in their native village Sanghi in Rohtak district.
Officials said polling had to be stopped briefly at two polling booths in Ambala Parliamentary constituency due to malfunctioning of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM).
Aam Aadmi Party`s Rohtak candidate Naveen Jaihind also alleged that he was threatened by two unidentified motorcycle-borne miscreants with dire consequences.
Jaihind said he had been given life threat by the two accused this morning near Pandit Neki Ram Government college here when he was close to a polling booth.
"They stopped me and threatened to teach me a lesson after the polls get over," 32-year-old Jaihind, who is taking on Chief Minister`s son Deepender Singh from Rohtak, told a news agency over phone.
In Haryana, Arvind Sharma and Avtar Singh Bhadana were seeking third term from Karnal and Faridabad LS seats respectively.
Congress nominee of 2009 General Election and former Union Minister Rao Inderjit Singh is also trying to enter the Lok Sabha for the third successive term, but this time on the nomination of saffron party BJP, which he has joined recently after severing his ties with the Congress.
AAP`s chief spokesman for Haryana, Rajeev Godara said the party had brought to the notice of Election Commission incidents of "heavy polling percentage recorded in some villages in Mewat district falling under Gurgaon parliamentary constituency, raising suspicion of bogus votes being cast".
Meanwhile, if poll percentage crosses 73.26 percent in Haryana, it could be the highest ever voter turnout.
Haryana was carved out as a separate state from the then joint Punjab in 1966. In 1967, poll percentage was 72.61 percent, in 1977 it was highest ever at 73.26 percent, in 2004 when Congress swept the polls, it was 65.72 percent and in 2009, again when Congress performed well, it was 67.48 percent. The lowest poll percentage in Haryana was 64.35 percent in 1971.
Meanwhile, three Congress nominees Deepender Hooda (Rohtak), Shruti Chaudhary (Bhiwani Mahendargarh) and Ashok Tanwar (Sirsa) and HJC-BL chief Kuldeep Bishnoi were attempting to enter Parliament for the second successive term.
From Sonipat, Congress had fielded its Gohana MLA Jagbir Singh Malik after party`s sitting MP Jitender Malik opted out of the race.
BJP fielded former MP, RL Kataria from Ambala (SC) while AAP`s Yogendra Yadav had jumped into the fray from Gurgaon.
Of the 10 Lok Sabha seats, at present Congress has nine MPs while Haryana Janhit Congress has one MP from the Hisar constituency.
Haryana had 16,240 polling stations, including about 11,700 in rural areas.
The Chief Electoral Officer Walgad said that about 50,000 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were used for voting in the State which include 18,000 control units and about 32,000 ballot units.
He said that maximum number of 41 candidates were contesting from Hisar Parliamentary seat whereas the least number of 14 candidates each were in fray from Ambala and Rohtak Parliamentary constituencies.
Walgad said that candidates include eight of BJP, 10 of BSP, two of CPI, three of CPM, 10 each of INC and INLD, two of HJC (BL), 64 of other registered Political Parties and 121 Independent Candidates.
Haryana Police DGP SN Vashisht said 74 Companies of Central Para Military Forces comprising of personnel from CRPF including women battalion, BSF, ITBP and Armed Police of Gujarat, J&K and Rajasthan, 45,000 personnel of Haryana Police and 20,000 Home Guards were deployed to maintain security.
He said seven companies of BSF would remain in Haryana to ensure safety of the EVMs till counting on May 16.