Mumbai/Chandigarh: Elections were being held today to Maharashtra and Haryana assemblies with moderate to brisk polling recorded in the first couple of hours. People were queuing at polling stations before the voting began at 7 AM amid tight security to elect the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly.
Among the early voters were NCP's Ajit Pawar, former deputy chief minister, MP Supriya Sule and Pratibha Pawar in Baramati, Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council Vinod Tawde in Mumbai and BJP's Pankaja Munde in Beed, where by-election is also being held for Lok Sabha seat following the death of her father Gopinath Munde in a road accident. Among Bollywood celebrities Rekha and Abhishek Bachchan cast their votes in the morning. 4,119 candidates are in the electoral fray, including to 276 women in the state with 8.35 crore voters eligible to exercise their right to franchise.
Nearly seven per cent turnout was recorded till 10 AM in Haryana, according to the state's Chief Electoral Officer, Shrikant Walgad. 1,351 candidates, including 116 women, are contesting on 90 seats in the state. The state has over 1.63 crore voters, including 87.37 lakh women.
Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hood was among the prominent people who cast their vote early this morning. Voting will continue till 6 PM. Counting of votes is on October 19. The riveting contest in the two states is being seen as the first major test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity after the Lok Sabha polls and he had spearheaded the BJP campaign in both the states.
Maharashtra's established political formations -- Shiv Sena-BJP and Cong-NCP -- split ahead of the polls and the parties are contesting alone after 15 years. Congress and NCP had ruled the state for 15 years from 1999. In Haryana too, the BJP junked its allies and is hoping to get majority on its own to dislodge Congress that has been ruling the state for the last 10 years.
Polling was marred by rains in some parts of Vidarbha in Maharashtra. A policeman on election duty was killed after being struck by lightning in Avdeghat polling station of Savner constituency.
Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan cast his vote in Karad in western Maharashtra, from where he is a candidate. State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis, a front runner for chief ministerial post in case BJP comes to power, also cast his vote. Other Bollywood personalities who went to polling booths in Mumbai early today were Jaya Bachchan, Amol Palekar and Atul Kulkarni. Cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar also cast his vote.
In Haryana, barring glitches in EVM machines at a couple of places, polling was going on smoothly. However, BJP candidate from Narnaund assembly segment, Abhimanyu, alleged that attempts to capture booth were made in Baas village in the constituency at behest of INLD, which denied the charge.
Walgad said supervisory teams are keeping an eye on polling parties and would report from time to time during polling to their concerned senior officers. Constant vigil was being maintained on persons and vehicles in all border areas of Haryana. Teams of flying squads were patrolling to ensure smooth conduct of elections.
Leaders and prominent personalities urged people to come out and vote. "Urging the people of Haryana & Maharashtra to go out & cast their votes. Youngsters must show the way & ensure record turnout," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet. Sachin Tendulkar said, "Voting is very important and every eligible person should exercise his vote. This is very important for our country." Actor Abhishek Bachchan made a similar appeal. "I request all our fellow citizens. This is our right.
This is your duty. Please come out. Please vote like I just have and do your duty. You want to make a change in the society, you should come out and vote," he said. MP Supriya Sule said that even "a sigle vote can make a great difference".