NEW DELHI • Millions of Indians voted in the third and largest phase of a staggered general election yesterday, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who cast his ballot in his home state of Gujarat and again underlined his focus on combating terrorism.
In all, 188 million Indians were eligible to vote in 117 constituencies yesterday across 15 states and federally controlled territories.
India's Parliament has 545 members. More than half of those eligible had voted as of 4.30pm, the Election Commission said.
In Gujarat, Mr Modi met his mother early in the morning and then rode in an open jeep past hundreds of onlookers to cast his vote shortly after 8am.
The Prime Minister, who ruled the western state for over a decade before leading his party to national power in 2014, has stressed at rallies the need for the 900 million electorate to turn out.
"By voting, I feel the same sense of purity that one gets by taking a bath at the Kumbh festival," he said, referring to the mass bathing by Hindu pilgrims in the Ganges.
Mr Modi voted in the constituency where his close associate Amit Shah, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president and key powerbroker, is contesting his maiden election.
The ruling BJP has aggressively pushed Mr Modi's national security record as it seeks to deflect opposition accusations of economic mismanagement, inadequate job creation and widespread farm distress.
Friends, remember what India's situation was before 2014... Weren't there bombs going off in different corners of the country every other day?
INDIAN PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI, addressing a rally in western Maharashtra state on Monday.
On Monday, Mr Modi addressed a rally in western Maharashtra state and mentioned the attacks on Sri Lankan hotels and churches on Easter Sunday that killed 321 people and wounded about 500.
He said India's security had been enhanced after his government came to power in 2014.
"Friends, remember what India's situation was before 2014," Mr Modi said. "Weren't there bombs going off in different corners of the country every other day?"
The general election, which has seven phases, began on April 11 and will end on May 19. Votes will be counted on May 23.
More than half of constituencies will have voted by the end of the third phase.
Turnout was robust in the first two rounds of voting, on April 11 and 18, with around 70 per cent of eligible voters taking part.
Violence flared in the eastern state of West Bengal and one Congress worker was killed and at least three people were injured, a state deputy chief election officer, Mr Sanjay Bose, said.
A Congress spokesman said the worker had been killed in a clash with supporters of a regional party, called the Trinamool Congress, which denied that assertion. The Election Commission said it was investigating.
In Kerala, leaders of three political parties complained about electronic voting machine malfunctions, but an Election Commission official said glitches were not widespread and there were enough replacement machines.
Meanwhile, media reports said suspected Maoists detonated an improvised explosive device in eastern Jharkhand state yesterday without causing any damage.
The authorities have also bolstered security in the restive Kashmir valley, where anti-India sentiment and armed militancy cast a shadow over polling. Voting was again very slow in the Anantnag constituency.
"I think job creation, sustainable development, and communal harmony should be the top priorities for the upcoming government," said Mr Ubaidullah Mohyideen, 26, voting in southern Kerala state's Wayanad district, one of two seats that opposition Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi is contesting.
Mr Jayendra Singh, 44, a businessman in Gujarat's capital Gandhinagar, voted early and said the economy, women's safety and unemployment were major issues for him.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE