Kovind, Gandhis among mass to vote in LS battle, BJP worker killed

NEW DELHI:

President Ram Nath Kovind, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi were among the hundreds of thousands who voted on Sunday in the sixth and penultimate round of the Lok Sabha polls in which a BJP worker was killed in West Bengal.

Kovind flashed his inked finger after exercising his franchise along with his wife at a polling booth in the Rashtrapati Bhawan as voters trooped to polling booths in large numbers in 59 constituencies. The polling began at 7 a.m.

A total electorate of 10.17 crore is eligible to vote in the 14 constituencies of Uttar Pradesh, 10 in Haryana, eight each in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, seven in Delhi and four in Jharkhand. 

A BJP activist was killed in Jhargram in West Bengal while Trinamool Congress supporters sustained bullet injuries at Keshpur in West Midnapore district as a number of incidents of violence were reported in the state.

In Uttar Pradesh, where the contest is intense between the BJP and the SP-BSP alliance with the Congress becoming the third factor, street clashes were reported both in Jaunpur and Sultanpur, where Union Minister Maneka Gandhi is the BJP candidate. 

In this phase, the BJP is defending 45 seats -- seven in Bihar, eight in Haryana, all four in Jharkhand, seven in Madhya Pradesh, 12 in Uttar Pradesh and all seven in Delhi. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has already voted in Gujarat, urged everyone to vote and added that youngsters should do so in record numbers. "After all, their participation makes the polls even more special."

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah made a similar appeal, saying India needed a "strong government again".

He underlined that the Modi government had transformed India from being a terror-stricken country to one that enemies were now scared of.

Rahul Gandhi asserted after voting -- he went walking to the polling booth -- that his party was set to win the mammoth battle. 

Accusing Modi of injecting hatred and asserting that the Congress spread love, he said: "Love is going to win."

He declined to comment on the number of seats the Congress could get. "The people will decide that."

Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal voted with his wife after urging voters to reject "hatred". Sonia Gandhi and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi also voted in the national capital.

Prominent among the 879 candidates include three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who faces state BJP chief Manoj Tiwari in Delhi North East, Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav from Uttar Pradesh's Azamgarh, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh against BJP's Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur in Bhopal, former cricketer Gautam Gambhir (BJP) in East Delhi against AAP's Atishi and Olympian boxer Vijendra Singh (Congress) in South Delhi against AAP's Raghav Chadha and incumbent MP Ramesh Bidhuri. 

Also contesting are Union Ministers Maneka Gandhi, from UP's Sultanpur, Radha Mohan Singh from Bihar's East Champaran, Harsh Vardhan from Delhi's Chandni Chowk and Rao Inderjeet Singh from Gurugram, Congress General Secretary Jyotiraditya Scindia from Madhya Pradesh's Guna and former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda from Sonipat. Bengali film hero Deepak Adhikari 'Dev' (Trinamool Congress) will lock horns with the BJP's Bharati Ghosh, a former IPS officer and once a trusted lieutenant of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in Ghatal. 

The Trinamool had won all the eight seats going voting on Sunday in West Bengal. 

The seven-phase Lok Sabha elections started on April 11 and will end on May 19. The vote count will take place on May 23.