Gorakhpur/Varanasi/Trivandrum, Apr 16 (ANI): Polling for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections across 15 states and two Union Territories began today amid tight security.
A total of 1,715 candidates, including 122 women, are contesting for the 124 seats, where over nine lakh officials have been deployed across 1.85 lakh polling stations.
The government has also ordered for a stringent check on the state borders to prevent movement of criminals and liquor.
The elections are expected to be conducted in a much better manner this time as photo electoral rolls will be used in almost all the constituencies going to the polls in the first phase. These photo electoral rolls would help in preventing bogus voting and easy identification of voters.
Also, this time the voting would happen post delimitation where the outlines of several constituencies have been redefined.
While all the 20 seats in Kerala, two in Meghalaya and 11 in Chhattisgarh is going to polls in a single phase today, polling is being held in 13 out of 40 seats in Bihar, 16 out of 80 in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra 13 (48), Andhra Pradesh 22 (42), six in Jharkhand, Orissa 10 (21), Assam 3 (14), Arunachal Pradesh 2 (2), Manipur 1 (2) and Jammu and Kashmir 1 (6).
Elections for the lone seats in Andaman and Nicobar islands, Lakshadweep, Mizoram and Nagaland are also being held. Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa are underway simultaneously.
The prominent leaders contesting in the first phase include Rashtriya Janata Dal's Lalu Prasad Yadav, Telangana Rashtra Samiti's K Chandrasekhar Rao, former Union Minister B Dattatreya, Bharatiya Janata Party's Murli Manohar Joshi, Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury, NTR's daughter D Purandeswari and actress Vijayasanthi.
In Gorakhpur, bordering Nepal, voters are turning up in large numbers to exercise their franchise.
Carrying their identity cards, the voters stood patiently outside the polling booths waiting for their turn to cast their votes.
BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, who is seeking fourth term from Gorakhpur, said he was confident of his party doing well in the state's eastern region.
"In the first phase, BJP will win at least 10 seats in eastern region of Uttar Pradesh," said Adityanath.In Trivandrum, security was tight as gun-toting policemen kept a strict vigil outside the polling booths.
Former United Nations Under-Secretary General and candidate of the Congress party, Shashi Tharoor who came to cast his vote along with the other voters, said, judging by the response and enthusiasm of the voters he was confident of his win.
"Just judging by the enthusiasm and response of the voters of the last four weeks, I must say if that enthusiasm translates into votes, I should be able to romp home," Tharoor said.
In Varanasi, banners and bunting fluttered from rooftops, the polling booths were well guarded and voters felt quite safe in casting their votes.
The 15th Lok Sabha elections will take place in five phases on April 16, 22, 23, 30 and May 7 and 13 throughout the country.
The five phased polls will be held in Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh while Bihar will have four-phased elections.
Maharashtra and West Bengal will witness three phased polls while Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Punjab will have elections in two phases.
Remaining 15 states and seven union territories will have one-day polling.
The counting of votes will take place on May 16.
The 543-member House will be constituted before June 2. (ANI)