High polling was registered yesterday in the penultimate phase of Lok Sabha elections in 64 constituencies in a highstake battle where the fates of 1,737 candidates including Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, his cousin Varun, Ram Vilas Paswan and Rabri Devi, were decided.
One person was killed when police opened fire outside a polling booth in Bihar's Sitamarhi district in a bid to prevent its capture.
The highest turnout in the 8th phase was 81.28 per cent in the six seats in West Bengal, which Trinamool Congress is trying to wrest from Left Front, followed by 76 per cent in Seemandhra, where voters chose 25 representatives to Lok Sabha and 175 members of the proposed assembly simultaneously.
Two key battleground states — Bihar, where seven constituencies went to poll on Wednesday, and Uttar Pradesh, where 15 seats were up for grabs — recorded impressive voters' turnout of 58 per cent and 55.52 per cent.
Congress hopes to retain as much ground as possible in yesterday's phase covering central UP in the face of a strong surge by BJP, playing the caste and religion cards, and a desperate BSP and SP seeking to hold on to their Muslim-OBC-dalit vote base.
After the phase, voting has been completed in 502 of the total of 543 constituencies and the remaining 41 seats will go to polls in the last round on May 12.
The talking point of yesterday's polling was Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, where Rahul Gandhi is contesting for the third time in a row. In Amethi, 55.2 per cent polling was recorded.
Rahul, who has represented the seat since 2004, for the first time toured polling booths in Amethi on the voting day, apparently in the face of a tough challenge posed by his rivals — Smriti Irani of BJP and Kumar Vishwas of Aam Aadmi Party.
Modi had made an aggressive campaign in Amethi, the bastion of Gandhi family for more than three decades, on the last day of electioneering for the 8th phase on April 5.
In neighbouring Sultanpur constituency — where Rahul's cousin and BJP's Varun Gandhi is in fray — 57.2 per cent voters cast their votes.
Barring sporadic clashes between workers of YSR Congress Party and TDP and alleged attacks on policemen in Rayalaseema districts, polling has been largely peaceful for the 175 assembly and 25 Lok Sabha constituencies in Seemandhra where Congress is battling hard to repeat its 2009 impressive show apparently as a price for bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
Prominent among the 118 candidates in Bihar were LJP chief Paswan from Hajipur and former Bihar chief minister and RJD candidate Rabri Devi from Saran where she is pitted against Rajiv Pratap Rudy of BJP.