New Delhi, May 22 : Over 61 per cent voting was reported in the third and final phase of Assembly elections in Karnataka on Thursday.
Briefing reporters here, the Deputy Election Commissioner, Raj Rishi Bhattacharya said that voting was by and large peaceful.
Polling was held for 69 seats spread over eight districts.
There was a lot of enthusiasm among the voters who cast their votes for the first time. In the rural areas, people wore their traditional dresses and stood in long queues to exercise their franchise.
Women voters outnumbered the men at certain polling stations. A large number of aged people also came out to cast their votes.
In Gulbarga, over 400 polling booths were set up to facilitate voting.
Over 17 million people, including over 57,000 female voters were eligible to cast their votes to decide the fate of 699 candidates.
The first phase of polling in 89 constituencies in 11 districts was conducted on 10th May and the second phase on 16th May across ten districts covering 66 constituencies. The third phase covered eight districts.
Political parties perceive that which ever party wins more seats in this phase, can expect a smooth passage to the Vidhana Soudha, the seat of power.
While BJP and Congress enjoy sizeable influence in this region, the Janata Dal-Secular, which is led by former Prime Minister H D Devegowda, is also eying to win some seats in this belt, to push up its tally and once again emerge a key player in government formation.
However, the level of confidence among BJP and Congress had been high as the front-ranking leaders of these parties have been claiming to grab a lion's share of the 69 seats.
The BJP, which bagged more than 30 seats in this region in the last poll, is hoping to win more than 40 seats in its strongholds like Dharwad, Belgaum, Bagalkot, Bijapur and Bidar.
op leaders from the BJP and Congress, braving the heat visited several constituencies and addressed election rallies to woo the electorate for their respective parties.
The cream of leaders included Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, BJP President Rajnath Singh, L K Advani, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Sushma Swaraj.
Front ranking state unit leaders who campaigned include Congress's Election Management Committee Chairman S M Krishna, Campaign Committee head Siddaramaiah, Kharge, BJP chief Ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa, his party national general Secretary H N Anantkumar and state unit Party president D V Sadananda Gowda.
The entire burden of campaign was shouldered by former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda and his son, former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy for JDS, as many of its front ranking leaders had deserted the party on the eve of election and joined either the Congress or BJP.
Prominent contestants in this phase are state unit JDS President Merajuddin Patel, former Ministers A B Patil, Gurupadappa Nagamarpally, Ajay Kumar Sarnayak,H K Patil, Baburao Chinchansoor and Baburao Chavan (All Cong), Jagadish Shettar and Appu Pattan Shetty (BJP).
Two BJP Lok Sabha MPs Ramesh Jigajinagi, Basavanagouda Patil Yatnal and Narsingrao Suryavanshi of Congress is bidding to return to state assembly.
Polling for the first and second phases was held on the 10th and 16th of this month.
Counting of votes for the 224 member Assembly will be taken up on Sunday. In all, 2241 aspirants contested the polls.