New Delhi: Millions poured into polling centres across 12 states Thursday in the sixth round of general election to pick 121 members to the Lok Sabha, officials said.
An estimated 25 percent of the 197 million people eligible to vote Thursday had exercised their franchise in the first five hours after balloting began at 7 a.m. in 225,387 centres, the Election Commission said.
The polling began on a dull note but picked up pace as the hours rolled by, officials said, barring in one of the three seats in Chhattisgarh and Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir.
By 10 a.m., long queues of men and women were seen outside most polling centres.
A total of 1,767 candidates are in the fray in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Simultaneous balloting is being held for 77 of the 147 assembly seats in Odisha and two assembly constituencies in West Bengal. The earlier polling in Odisha took place April 10.
Election has already taken place in 111 Lok Sabha constituencies in the earlier five rounds of balloting that began April 7. Thursday will see the largest number of Lok Sabha seats in contention until now.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed it was confident of winning most of the seats in Thursday's battle.
"We are sure of winning all 25 seats (in Rajasthan)," Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje said in Jaipur. Polling is on in 20 of the 25 constituencies Thursday.
Former central minister Ananth Kumar voiced confidence about the BJP's ability to do well in Karnataka, where it is the main opposition party to the ruling Congress.
Central minister Jyotiraditya Scindia brushed aside the BJP's allegations. "There is no Modi wave," he said after voting in Guna in Madhya Pradesh, referring to the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Early voters Thursday included Ananth Kumar (Bangalore South), Jaswant Singh (Barmer), Sachin Pilot (Ajmer), Ashok Chavan (Nanded), Misha Bharti (Pataliputra), Supriya Sule (Baramati) and B.S. Yeddyurappa (Shimoga).
Other prominent candidates in the fray include Ghulam Nabi Azad (Udhampur), Maneka Gandhi (Pilibhit), Shatrughan Sinha (Patna Sahib), M. Veerappa Moily (Chikkaballapur), Nandan Nilekani (Bangalore South), Sushilkumar Shinde (Solapur), Gopinath Munde (Beed), V. Balakrishnan (Banglaore Central), and S.S. Ahluwalia and Bhaichung Bhutia (Darjeeling).
About 1.37 million staff are overseeing the polling. Polling ends at 6 p.m. barring in the lone Manipur seat where balloting will end at 4.
Thursday will see election in all 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka, 20 in Rajasthan, 19 in Maharashtra, 11 each in Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, seven in Bihar, six in Jharkhand, four in West Bengal, three in Chhattisgarh and one each in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir.
Four more rounds of Lok Sabha election will take place until May 12. The millions of votes cast across the country will be counted May 16 - to know which party or coalition will get to rule India the next five years.