The Election Commission has announced the schedule for the General elections to form the 17th Lok Sabha. These elections would be held in seven phases beginning Aprill 11 and concluding on May 19. Counting of votes would be held on May 23.
Phase 1: Voting would be held in 91 constituencies in 20 states on April 11.
Phase 2: Voting will be held on April 18 when 97 constituencies of 13 states go to polls.
Phase 3: 115 constituencies go to polls in 14 states on April 23.
Phase 4: 71 constituencies in nine states go to polls on April 29.
Phase 5: On May 6, 51 constituencies in seven states go to polls.
Phase 6: May 12 will see 59 constituencies in seven states go to polls.
Phase 7: On May 19, voting will be held in 59 constituencies of eight states.
Lok Sabha MPs, 543 in number, are elected through voting. In the last general elections to Lok Sabha of 2014, BJP-led NDA had defeated the Congress-led UPA to win by a landslide victory.
All the parties have begun their election campaigns already. While the BJP is seeing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah traversing the length and breadth of the country, the Opposition is also working towards cobbling up an alliance, Mahagathbandhan, for facing the NDA.
The NDA is seeking a second term and is banking on its 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' mantra.
Meanwhile, the Congress, buoyed by the recent wins in Assembly elections of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, has managed to resurrect itself and would expect to play a bigger role in the coalition.
While TDP's Chandrababu Naidu has made it amply clear that the Congress cannot be ignored, and RJD's Tejashwi Yadav has voiced a similar sentiment, other regional players, like the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have given the grand old party the cold shoulder.
The two UP heavyweights have anyway announced an alliance and would be contesting together from 76 seats out of UP's 80. As a concession, they would not be contesting from Amethi and Rae Bareli, represented by Rahul and Sonia Gandhi respectively.
The Opposition has many issues to corner the NDA with. Be it agrarian crisis, unprecedented unemployment, Ram Temple issue or the Citizenship Amendment Bill, the NDA has a lot of ground to cover.
Agrarian crisis has led to many farmer protests across the country. While the Interim Budget has announced sops in the form of Kisan credit card and an annual allowance of Rs 6,000 to each marginal or small farmer, it remains to be seen if this would see the farmers warm up to the NDA or the measure has come too late.
At the same time, the recently formed Congress governments in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh were quick to announce farm loan waivers, consistently driving home the point that the party was being true to its poll manifesto.
Another thorn in the side of the NDA is loss of jobs post-demonetisation. Reports have said that 1.5 million jobs were lost after the note ban. Implementation of Goods and Services Tax has also had the Opposition attacking the Centre.
During 2017-18, unemployment rate in India has been at a 45-year-high, said reports.
Ram Temple in Ayodhya is another contentious issue. While the BJP has filed a plea in the Supreme Court for allowing the return of the undisputed land to Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, showing to the public that it is sincere about one of its poll promises, it has also gone ahead and blamed the Congress for delaying the process. The Centre has also had to admit that it would have to wait for the judicial process to complete before it seeks to bring an ordinance for the Ram Temple.
The BJP has an ally like Shiv Sena attacking it over the issue too, much to its embarrassment.
Then, in Rafale deal, Opposition parties have alleged price escalations and corporate favouritism. While the Centre has vehemently denied all charges and even the Supreme Court has dismissed a PIL on the deal, a review petition on the judgement has also been filed. The Congress has been attacking the BJP over the issue for months on end now.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill is another prickly issue for the Centre with NDA allies from the North-east also registering their protest over it.
The NDA has had many allies leave over the years so this general election won't exactly be a cakewalk for the ruling alliance. The RLSP of Upendra Kushwaha left the alliance over seat-share formula in December 2018. Then Asom Gana Parishad has left the NDA over Citizenship Amendment Bill. The TDP walked out over its demand for special status to Andhra Pradesh while the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha quit NDA in protest against alleged non-fulfilment of demands of Gorkhas.
Meanwhile, the country's air strike against JeM's terror camp in Balkote, Pakistan, is likely to fetch the ruling NDA some brownie points.