Campaign for 7th phase which saw no-holds-barred attacks ends

Campaign for 7th phase which saw no-holds-barred attacks ends

The fate of many stalwarts like Sonia Gandhi, Narendra Modi, L K Advani and Rajnath Singh will be decided on April 30 in the seventh phase of Lok Sabha election in 89 seats, where the high-decibel campaign marked by vicious personal attacks by leaders ended today.

The seventh lap of the nine-phase elections covers constituencies in seven states, including all seats in Gujarat (26), Telangana (17) and Punjab (13), and 2 Union Territories, with over 1,000 candidates in the fray .

Gandhi's Rae Bareli constituency, which saw Priyanka Gandhi taking up the cudgels on her mother's behalf, Modi's Vadodara constituency, Gandhinagar where Advani is contesting, and Singh's Lucknow seat are among those going to polls on Wednesday.

Other prominent leaders in the fray are Union Minister Farooq Abdullah from Srinagar, BJP's Arun Jaitley who is pitted against Congress' Amarinder Singh in Amritsar, Murli Manohar Joshi and Union Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal from Kanpur, JD(U) President Sharad Yadav from Madhepura.

Uma Bharti and Union Minister Pradeep Jain Aditya are contesting from Jhansi, Union Minister Jitin Prasada from Dhaurahra and chairman of National SC Commission P L Punia from Barabanki.

Modi spearheaded the BJP campaign blitzkrieg, attacking Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on the issue of development, corruption and raking up her son-in-law Robert Vadra's land deals.

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul led the Congress offencive, accusing Modi and BJP of being divisive and communal and against the "very idea of India".

Rahul raked up the issue of Modi's alleged links to Adani group while Priyanka, who is campaigning in Amethi and Rae Bareli, took on BJP for targeting her husband, saying the party was "scurrying like panic-stricken rats".

The 89 Lok Sabha constituencies that will witness polling include 11 in Uttar Pradesh, seven in Bihar, 9 in West Bengal and one each in Jammu and Kashmir, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.

As many as 413 candidates in 26 seats are in the fray in Modi's hometurf Gujarat, which is witnessing a straight fight between BJP and Congress.

Congress leader Madhusudan Mistry is challenging Modi in Vadodara, while senior leader Shankarsinh Vaghela is contesting from Sabarkantha. AAP, striving to emerge as the third alternative, has fielded candidates in 24 constituencies.

A total of 4.05 crore voters (2.12 crore male and 1.93 crore female) are eligible to exercise franchise in Gujarat across 45,380 polling stations.

Modi campaigned in the state extensively after the completion of sixth phase on April 24 invoking his "son of the soil" image and addressed six rallies on the last day.

Congress employed its two big guns, party president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi in the state. They questioned Modi's claims about development in Gujarat.

Considering the symbolic importance of Gujarat, Congress made an all-out effort, especially in the constituencies that are its traditional bastions, making the campaigning interesting.

During the campaign, VHP leader Pravin Togadia stirred a controversy when he was caught on tape advising his supporters to forcibly occupy a home purchased by a Muslim in a Hindu-dominated locality of Bhavnagar, giving another opportunity to Modi baiters to attack him on his RSS links and the 2002 anti-Muslim riots issue.

Modi's acknowledgement of his marriage in his election affidavit for the first time, provided some grist to the opposition's mill.

In Uttar Pradesh, a total of 233 candidates are in fray from 11 seats, whose fate will be decided by 2.4 crore electorate.

This phase is specially important for Congress as out of 22 seats won by the party in 2009 Lok Sabha polls, seven will go to polls on Wednesday. SP had won four, BSP two and BJP has only one seat.

The Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh where campaign ended are Dhaurahra, Sitapur, Misrikh SC, Unnao, Mohanlalganj SC, Lucknow, Rae Bareli, Kanpur, Jalaun SC,Jhansi, Hamirpur, Banda, Fatehpur and Barabanki SC.

In Bihar, the constituencies of Madhubani, Jhanjharpur, Madhepura, Darbhanga, Samastipur SC, Begusarai and Khagaria will also witness polling.

Among the 94 candidates, JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav is being challenged by RJD's Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav in Madehpura, former union minister and BJP leader Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav from Madhubani, cricketer-turned BJP leader Kirti Azad from Darbhanga and his challenger former union minister and RJD leader M A A Fatmi.There were also five women in the contest.

In West Bengal, where nine constituencies are going to polls, the high-voltage campaign saw Modi crossing swords with Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee, attacking her on Saradha scam. The Trinamool hit back calling him the "Butcher of Gujarat".

Among the 87 contestants prominent were BJP's Bappi Lahiri, journalist-turned politician Chandan Mitra, actor George Baker, TMC's sitting MPs Satabdi Roy, Kalyan Banerjee Sultan Ahmed, besides Prasun Banerjee, a former India soccer player and Congress candidate Abdul Mannan. There were also 13 women contestants.

The nine constituencies are Howrah, Uluberia, Sreerampur, Hooghly, Arambag SC, Bardhaman Purba SC, Bardhaman - Durgapur, Bolpur SC and Birbhum Lok Sabha seat.

Barring two mysterious blasts that left three persons injured, the campaigning for Srinagar Lok Sabha seat, which ended this evening, was by and large peaceful with candidates, including NC president Farooq Abdullah, addressing nearly 100 rallies and roadshows to woo voters.

In Telangana, it was a bitter campaign to 17 Lok Sabha and 119 Assembly seats.

While Telangana issue remained the main campaign theme of all parties, Telangana Rashtra Samiti president K Chandrasekhar Rao not only criticised leaders of rival parties like Chandrababu Naidu (TDP) and Ponnala Lakshmaiah (Congress), but also specifically targeted people from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema who have been living in various parts of Telangana for decades now.

Telugu film star Pawan Kalyan, who recently launched Jana Sena Party and pledged support to the TDP-BJP alliance, targeted TRS chief, taking exception to the latter's criticism of BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

With the stakes remaining high for the national parties Congress and BJP in the new state, they roped in their top leaders for campaigning in Telangana. Modi took part in BJP's election meetings at Karimnagar and Nizamabad, besides sharing the dais with Chandrababu at Mahbubnagar and Hyderabad.

Congress brought in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi who addressed public meetings at places like Bhuvanagiri, Karimnagar, Chevella, Medak, Mahbubnagar, Nizamabad, Warangal and Hyderabad. Union Minister Jairam Ramesh camped in Hyderabad throughout.

Though the YSR Congress is also in the election fray in Telangana, its chief Y S Jaganmohan Reddy campaigned only in Hyderabad city on the last day of campaigning, while his younger sister Sharmila visited a couple of districts.

In Punjab, where 253 contestants are in the fray in a mutli-cornered contest, stakes are high for Jaitley and Amarinder Singh.

The vote canvassing exercise was dominated by a series of barbs, charges and counter-charges by arch rivals SAD-BJP alliance and Congress.

Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party also added to  the high voltage drama by fielding in contestants at all 13 seats against the two main claimants.

Top leaders from across the political spectrum - Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Prakash Karat, Mayawati, Arvind Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav criss- crossed the roads and airspace of Punjab, lighting up the electoral battle that is poised for a close finish.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has maintained a low profile during this polls, avoided campaigning in Punjab. Modi himself addressed five back-to-back rallies on a single day.

Glamour was added to the canvassing with film stars including Akshaye Khanna, Vivek Oberoi, Kirron Kher, Gul Panag, Manoj Tewary, Poonam Dhillon, Sunny Deol and Suniel Shetty too seeking votes besides cricketer Gautam Gambhir and former cricketer Bishen Singh Bedi.

Besides Operation Bluestar, plight of Sikh farmers in Gujarat, unemployment, political vendetta, law and order situation and drug trade were the issues that hogged limelight.

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