Stage set for largest phase of Lok Sabha polls; Amit Shah, Rahul Gandhi in fray
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and chief of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Amit Shah, display copies of their party’s election manifesto for the April/May general election in New Delhi, India, April 8, 2019 (Photo: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi).
Polling will be held on Tuesday (22) for the third and largest phase of Lok Sabha election in 116 seats, including all constituencies in Gujarat and Kerala, with BJP president Amit Shah, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and several Union ministers among prominent candidates in the fray.
The stakes are high for the ruling BJP and its allies as they bagged 66 seats out of these 116 spread across 14 states and Union Territories in 2014 general election, while the Congress and its alliance partners won 27, and the rest went to other opposition parties and Independents.
Besides all seats in Gujarat (26) and Kerala (20), voting will be held in four seats in Assam, five in Bihar, seven in Chhattisgarh, 14 each in Karnataka and Maharashtra, six in Odisha, 10 in Uttar Pradesh, five in West Bengal, two in Goa, and one each in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu and Tripura.
The polling in Tripura East constituency, which was earlier scheduled for April 18, will be held in this phase, as also in a part of the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat in Jammu and Kashmir, where election is being held in three phases.
About 18.56 crore voters are eligible for voting in this phase and the Election Commission has set up 2.10 lakh polling booths/stations and has made elaborate security arrangements.
In the first two phases, election was held to 91 and 96 seats on April 11 and April 18 respectively. Elections are being held in seven phases and with the completion of third phase, the election process will be completed in southern states.
BJP chief Amit Shah, who replaced L K Advani as the party nominee from Gandhinagar, and 370 other candidates are in the fray in the 26 Lok Sabha seats all of which were won by the party in the last election. Union Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Jaswantsinh Bhabhor is the BJP nominee from Dahod seat.
In Kerala, Rahul Gandhi’s decision to contest from Wayanad besides his traditional Amethi seat has added new interest to the fight between rivals UDF and LDF for the 20 seats. The BJP has also aggressively campaigned in the hope of opening its account in the southern state by capitalising on the Sabarimala shrine women entry issue.
Union minister Alphons Kannamthanam is seeking to make his Lok Sabha debut from Ernakulam. Sitting Congress MP Shashi Tharoor is facing a triangular contest in Thiruvananthapuram, where the BJP has fielded former governor Kummanam Rajasekharan and the CPI C. Divakaran.
It is a do-or-die battle for both the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF and the opposition Congress-headed UDF in most of the 20 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP-led NDA is posing a formidable challenge to the two traditional fronts in at least three constituencies—Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur.
In Karnakata, the battle lines clearly delineated for a bipolar contest between the ruling Congress-JD(S) combine and the BJP.
The BJP that has considerable presence in these constituencies aims to improve its tally banking on what it calls the “Modi wave” and the support of dominant Lingayat community, considered as its vote base.
It is also a test for Congress-JD(S) coalition government headed by H.D. Kumaraswamy in the state.
The third phase of polling for 10 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh will decide the electoral fate of four members of the SP patron Mulayam Singh Yadav’s clan, besides those of senior party leader Azam Khan and film actor and BJP candidate Jaya Prada.
The BJP had won seven out of the 10 seats in 2014, while the SP bagged three. Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav and his two nephews Dharmendra Yadav and Akshay Yadav are seeking re-election from Mainpuri, Badaun and Firozabad seats respectively. Mulayam has said this will he his last contest.
Voting will be held in seven Lok Sabha seats in Chhattisgarh, of which the BJP had won six in 2014. The Congress, buoyed by its victory in the Assembly elections last year, is hoping to improve its tally in the state.
In Goa, there are 12 candidates in the fray for the two Lok Sabha constituencies, including Union AYUSH Minister Shripad Naik from North Goa where he is pitted against state Congress chief Girish Chodankar.
In Bihar, close to nine million voters will be deciding the fates of 82 candidates in five Lok Sabha seats of Bihar. Four sitting MPs Ranjeet Ranjan (Supaul), her husband Pappu Yadav (Madhepura), Sarfaraz Alam (Araria) and Mehboob Ali Kaiser (Khagaria) would seek to retain their respective seats.
In the six seats in Odisha, the main contest in between the state’s ruling BJD and the BJP. The BJD had won all the six seats in 2014.
The ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, BJP and Congress are the main contenders in the five seats—Balurghat, Maldaha North, Maldaha South, Jangipur and Murshidabad.
Four seats will see four-cornered contests between the three parties and the Left Front. It will be a three-cornered contest in Maldaha South as no Left party is in the fray in the seat.
In Assam, prominent candidates in the fray are two sitting MPs AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal in Dhubri and Independent Naba Sarania in Kokrajhar, state social welfare minister Pramila Rani Brahma of BPF from Kokrajhar and Congress MLA Abdul Khaleque.
In the Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, the BJP had bagged both seats in the last election.
The Lok Sabha polls are being held in seven-phases for 543 seats and the counting of votes will be on May 23.