Voting for the fifth of Jharkhand Assembly elections began on Friday morning. Over 40 lakh people from 16 constituencies are eligible to cast their votes in the final phase.

Polling will continue from 7 am to 5 pm in 11 constituencies while five seats – Borio, Barhait, Litipara, Maheshpur and Sikaripara – will vote till 3 pm. The seats that will vote in this phase are: Rajmahal, Borio (ST), Barhait (ST), Litipara (ST), Pakur, Maheshpur (ST), Sikaripara (ST), Nalla, Jamtara, Dumka (ST), Jama (ST), Jarmundi, Sarath, Poreyahat, Godda and Mahagama.

At 3 pm, the total voting percentage was recorded at 52.19%, according to the Election Commission’s Voter Turnout app. The highest voter participation was in Jamtara district, where 67.05% of the voters cast their ballot. In Sahebganj, the voting percentage was 48.40%, in Dumka 46.69%, in Pakur 57.21%, in Deoghar 51.36%% and in Godda 56.87%.

There are a total of 237 candidates, including 29 women, contesting across the 16 seats. Among the prominent contestants in this phase are Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief and former Chief Minister Hemant Soren and Jharkhand Agriculture Minister Randhir Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Soren is contesting from Dumka and Barhait where his main opponents are BJP’s Louis Marandi and Simon Malto, respectively. Soren, who is the chief ministerial candidate of the JMM-Congress alliance, triggered a controversy after he alleged that people wearing “saffron robes” were raping women. The Bharatiya Janata Party filed complaint against him to the Election Commission.

Security personnel have been deployed in 1,347 polling stations, said Chief Electoral Officer Vinay Kumar Choubey said. “There are some LWE [Left-Wing Extremism] affected areas and accordingly all measures have been taken,” said Choubey, according to PTI. As many as 396 polling stations in Maoist-affected areas have been marked as critical and 208 as sensitive.

As many as 133 polling stations have women staff, while 1,347 have webcasting facilities, Choubey said, according to PTI. The Election Commission has set up 8,987 ballot units, 6,738 control units and 7,006 Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail machines.

Elections have been held in 65 out of total 81 Assembly constituencies in the last four phases between November 30 and December 16. Counting of votes will take place on December 23.

The term of the Assembly ends on January 5 next year. Chief Minister Raghubar Das-led Bharatiya Janata Party is hoping to retain power in the state once again. The Bharatiya Janata Party and the All Jharkhand Students’ Union are contesting the elections separately as they failed to finalise a seat-sharing agreement. The saffron party is left with no other ally as Lok Janshakti Party is also contesting the elections alone.

The elections will test the strength of the Opposition alliance, which includes the Congress, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the Rashtriya Janata Dal.

In the 2014 Assembly elections, the saffron party had won 35 seats and alliance partner All Jharkhand Students’ Union won five seats. Jharkhand Mukti Morcha was the largest Opposition party with 17 seats, the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) won eight seats and Congress managed to win only six seats.