New Delhi: Polling is to begin shortly in 71 parliamentary constituencies across nine states today. The stakes are high for the ruling BJP and its allies as they had taken 56 of these seats in 2014, leaving only two for the Congress. The remaining 14 had gone to other Opposition parties such as the Trinamool Congress (six) and the Biju Janata Dal (six). (Catch The Action of Lok Sabha Elections Here)

The number of seats going to polls are 17 in Maharashtra, 13 each in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, eight in West Bengal, six each in
Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, five in Bihar, three in Jharkhand and a part of the Anantnag constituency in J&K.

Of these, the ones in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are to look out for as the BJP had taken 52 of the 54 seats here. Elections in these states are beginning with the fourth phase in this seven-phase election. Another significant factor in both these states is how the Congress made a comeback of sorts by forming the state government in the December 2018 Assembly elections.

As many as 302 seats have already gone to polls in the first three phases and another 168 will go to polls in the last three phases.
In the fourth phase, key contestants include Union ministers Giriraj Singh, Subhash Bhamre, S S Ahluwalia and Babul Supriyo of the
BJP and former Union ministers Salman Khurshid and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the Congress.

Among others to watch out for are Kanhaiya Kumar (CPI), Baijayant Panda (BJP), Urmila Matondkar (Congress), Dimple Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Satabdi Roy (TMC) and Milind Deora (Congress).

In Maharashtra, where the Lok Sabha election comes to an end with this phase, the Congress is set on reclaiming lost base in alliance with NCP which is grappling for a foothold in Thane district and western Maharashtra. In 2014, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine had won all 17 seats. Bhamre and Congress leaders Deora and Matondkar are among the candidates here.

In Rajasthan, Jodhpur became one of the most talked about seats in the Congress-ruled state where Ashok Gehlot did massive campaigning for his son Vaibhav who is pitted against sitting MP and Union minister of state Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. In Rajasthan as well, the BJP had won all the seats in 2014.

In Uttar Pradesh, most of these 13 seats are seeing a direct fight between the BJP and SP-BSP alliance with Kannauj being a
matter of prestige for the SP. In 2014, the BJP won 12 of these 13 seats in the state. Only Kannauj went to the Samajwadi Party.

In West Bengal, all the eight seats, which are spread across four districts, will see a four-cornered contest between Trinamool
Congress, BJP, Congress and the Left Front.

In Odisha, where the ruling BJD won all six seats in 2014, the BJP is making efforts to bag a few seats. Prominent among the candidates are BJP national vice-president Baijayant Panda (Kendrapara) who quit the BJD to join the saffron party recently. Polling will also be held in 41 Assembly seats in Odisha in this phase.

In Bihar, the BJP and its allies are looking to retain all the five seats but are faced by the RJD-Congress alliance. In this phase, however, all eyes would be on Begusarai which will see CPI debutant Kanhaiya Kumar take on BJP leader Giriraj Singh.

In all the six seats in Madhya Pradesh, a direct fight between the Congress and the BJP is on the cards. The state’s new power centre is witnessing a unique father-son electoral show with chief minister Kamal Nath and his son Nakul in the fray.

While the chief minister, a nine-time MP from the area, is contesting an assembly by-poll, Nakul is hoping to seeking election to Lok Sabha from Chhindwara.

In Jharkhand, over 45.26 lakh voters will decide the fate of 59 candidates in the first phase of polls for three Lok Sabha constituencies. Union minister of state for tribal affairs Sudarshan Bhagat is seeking re-election from the Lohardaga (ST) seat.

In J&K, polling will be held in Kulgam district, which is part of Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency. Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency
is spread over four districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama with 16 Assembly segments. The Lok Sabha polls to
this constituency are being held in three phases due to security reasons.

Elections are being held in seven phases between April 11 and May 19. Results will be declared on May 23.