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57% polling in Ph IV
5 killed in violence in West Bengal, Rajasthan
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service


New Delhi, May 7
An estimated 57 per cent of the voters today cast ballots in the fourth and penultimate round of polling in the general elections, amid claims by both the Congress and the BJP that they would emerge as the single largest group in what is widely expected to be a hung Lok Sabha.

The Election Commission here said polling was largely peaceful, barring stray incidents in West Bengal and Rajasthan. Four persons died in poll-related violence in West Bengal and one in Rajasthan. Two other voters died in West Bengal, apparently due to heat stroke.

The fifth and final round of voting would be held on May 13 and counting of votes will take place on May 16. With voters expected to give a fractured mandate, all political parties are waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the poll.

Giving state-wise break-up of voting, Deputy Election Commissioner R Balakrishnan said West Bengal recorded a high of 75 per cent polling while Bihar registered a low of 37 per cent turnout. Haryana witnessed 63 per cent, Punjab 65 per cent, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi 50 per cent and Jammu and Kashmir 24 per cent.

Balakrishnan noted that voting was absolutely peaceful for the Srinagar seat in Jammu and Kashmir. The polling percentage was quite satisfactory since the constituency had recorded just 18.75 per cent voting in the 2004 elections and 11.93 per cent in the 1999 elections.

Polling was held today in 10 seats in Haryana, 25 in Rajasthan, 4 in Punjab, 17 in West Bengal, 3 in Bihar, 18 in Uttar Pradesh, seven in Delhi and one in Jammu and Kashmir.

Among the high-profile voters today were President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, AICC General secretary Rahul Gandhi, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

Even as the voting progressed this afternoon, both Congress and BJP poll managers exuded confidence that they would get the numbers, which would enable them to be invited first by the President to explore the possibility of forming the new government. Senior Congress leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi admitted in a TV news channel discussion that the elections would be a close fight between the Congress-led UPA and the BJP-led NDA. No single party would be in a position to form a government on its own but the Congress would emerge as the single largest group, he said.

However, BJP president Rajnath Singh, who contested from Ghaziabad, asserted that the NDA would get a majority, with the BJP winning the race with the highest number of seats.

In today’s round of voting, the Left Front, said to be on a sticky wicket, faced a resurgent Congress-Trinamool Congress combine in West Bengal. Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav sought to protect his strongholds in Uttar Pradesh in the face of a strong challenge from the Bahujan Samaj Party, BJP-Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) combine and a rejuvenated Congress, which is seeking its revival in the electorally most important state in the country.

It was a fight between the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD)-BJP combine for the 10 seats in Haryana while Punjab saw a battle between the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine, with the grand old party said to be holding an edge.

It was a straight contest between the Congress and the BJP for the seven seats in Delhi. The Congress claimed it would win at least six seats in the national capital while the BJP was confident of securing two-three seats.

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