New Delhi: The seven-phase Lok Sabha elections will come to a close Sunday when polling will be held in 59 constituencies including Varanasi where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to retain the seat. Counting of votes will be taken up on May 23.
(Full coverage on Lok Sabha Polls)
Over 10.01 crore voters are expected to decide the fate of 918 candidates. For smooth conduction of the polls, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has set up more than 1.12 lakh polling stations.
Sunday, May 19, will witness polling in all 13 seats in Punjab and an equal number of seats in Uttar Pradesh, nine in West Bengal, eight seats each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, four in Himachal Pradesh, three in Jharkhand and the lone seat Chandigarh.
In Uttar Pradesh, all eyes will be on Varanasi, where besides PM Modi will fight it out against Congress’s Ajay Rai and SP-BSP grand alliance’s nominee Shalini Yadav, among 25 other candidates.
In this phase, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is contesting 11 Lok Sabha seats, while its ally Apna Dal (Sonelal) is contesting Mirzapur, currently held by Union minister Anupriya Patel, and Robertsganj.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri are among the 278 candidates including 24 women are in the fray in Punjab. On most of the 13 seats, the contest appears to be a direct fight between the Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance. Meanwhile, 6 lakh voters in the union territory of Chandigarh will choose between sitting MP and BJP candidate Kirron Kher and former railway minister and Congress candidate Pawan Kumar Bansal.
In West Bengal, an electorate of 1,49,63,064 will decide the fate of 111 candidates in nine seats – Kolkata North and Kolkata South, Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jadavpur, Diamond Harbour, Jaynagar (SC) and Mathurapur (SC). Eight seats, barring Jadavpur, will witness a contest between the Trinamool Congress, the BJP, the Congress and the Left Front.
A total of 157 candidates, including Ravi Shankar Prasad, Ram Kripal Yadav, RK Singh and Ashwini Kumar Choubey, are in the fray in Bihar.
The most keenly-watched contest is in Patna Sahib where Prasad, one of the most prominent members of the Narendra Modi cabinet, is seeking entry into the Lok Sabha. He is pitted against Shatrughan Sinha – the actor-turned-politician, who won it on both occasions for the BJP and is now in the fray as the Congress candidate.
In Jharkhand, the electoral fortunes of 42 candidates including that of former chief minister and Union minister Shibu Soren will be decided on Sunday. He is in fray from Dumka seat for the ninth term and is contesting against BJP’s Sunil Soren.
Former Union ministers Kantilal Bhuria, Arun Yadav are in the fray from Ratlam and Khandwa of Madhya Pradesh. Other seats going to poll in the state are – Dewas, Ujjain, Mandsaur, Dhar, Indore and Khargone. All are currently held by the BJP.
Polling will also be held in all four Lok Sabha constituencies in Himachal Pradesh where as many as 45 candidates, including five legislators, are in the fray.
An average of 66.88 per cent voters exercised their franchise in the last six phases. The whole elections were spread over 38 days.
On Sunday, a bypoll will be held in Panaji, necessitated due to the death of former chief minister Manohar Parrikar in March. Bye-elections will also be held in four assembly constituencies of Tamil Nadu — Sulur, Aravakurichi, Ottapidaram (SC) and Thiruparankundram.
(Inputs from PTI)