New Delhi: The stage is set for the fifth phase of Lok Sabha Elections 2019, the voting for which is scheduled to be held on May 6, Monday. A total of 674 candidates, including political bigwigs Rajnath Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Smriti Irani, are in the fray for 51 Lok Sabha constituencies in seven states. With this phase, election will be over in 424 seats and polling in the remaining 118 seats will be held on May 12 and 19.
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Voting will take place in 14 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 12 in Rajasthan, seven seats each in West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, five in Bihar and four in Jharkhand. In Jammu and Kashmir, polling will take place in Ladakh constituency and Pulwama and Shopian districts of Anantnag seat. Nearly nine crore voters will exercise their franchise in the fifth and smallest phase.
To ensure smooth and fair conduct of the polling process, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has set up 94,000 polling stations/booths across 51 seats in seven state.
In this phase, the stakes are high for the ruling BJP and its allies as it had swept 40 of these seats in 2014, leaving just two for the Congress and the rest for other opposition parties such as the Trinamool Congress (seven).
The fifth phase of polling in 14 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh will see a clash of titans, including Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is contesting on five seats — Dhaurahra, Sitapur, Mohanlalganj, Fatehpur and Kaisarganj. Its ally Samajwadi Party (SP) is fighting for seven seats — Lucknow, Banda, Kaushambi, Barabanki, Faizabad, Bahraich and Gonda. In Amethi and Rae Bareli, the SP-BSP alliance has not put up any candidate, leaving the two constituencies for the Congress. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is seeking re-election from Lucknow, while his colleague at the Centre Smriti Irani is again taking on Rahul Gandhi in Amethi.
The BJP had bagged 12 of these seats in 2014 with the Congress winning Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli and Rahul Gandhi’s Amethi — the only two constituencies where the Congress succeeded out of the 80 in the entire state.
In Rajasthan, former Olympians Rajyawardhan Rathore (BJP) and Krishna Poonia (Congress) will lock horns in the Jaipur Rural seat. Meanwhile, Union minister and former IAS officer Arjun Ram Meghwal (BJP) is facing a tough fight from his cousin and Congress candidate Madangopal Meghwal, a former IPS officer in Bikaner. Two seers — Sumedhanand Saraswati and Baba Balaknath — are contesting the polls from Sikar and Alwar respectively. A total of 134 candidates are in the fray from 12 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
In West Bengal, it is a four-cornered contest between the Trinamool Congress, BJP, Congress and the CPI(M) in seven Lok Sabha constituencies spread across three districts.
Of the five seats in Bihar, Hajipur and Saran are considered pocket boroughs of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Ram Vilas Paswan and the RJD of Lalu Prasad respectively. The other three constituencies are Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi and Madhubani. Both Paswan, a Union minister, and Prasad, serving jail term in fodder scam cases, are not in the fray, but their parties are making all-out efforts to retain their influence.
In the four seats in Jharkhand – Hazaribagh, Koderma, Ranchi and Khunti, polling will be held between 7 am and 4 pm. Voting ends two hours before the scheduled end in other constituencies due to security reasons as some areas are affected by Left-Wing Extremism.
In Madhya Pradesh, this will be the second phase of polling and seven constituencies – Tikamgarh, Damoh, Khajuraho, Satna, Rewa, Hoshangabad and Betul – will witness polling.
Polling will also be held in Jammu and Kashmir in this phase. Former chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti is pitted against state Congress president GA Mir in the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency where polling is being held in three phases due to security reasons. In Ladakh, there are four candidates in the fray — Tsering Namgyal of the BJP, Rigzin Spalbar of the Congress and two Independents.
Election to 542 Lok Sabha seats is being conducted in seven phases between April 11 and May 19. Results will be declared on May 23.
(With PTI inputs)