Curtains on 16th LS poll campaign

Curtains on 16th LS poll campaign

Curtains on 16th LS poll campaign

The high-voltage campaigning for the nine-phase 2014 parliamentary poll, which was spread over 66 days and often slurred on personal attacks among leaders and loaded with communal overtones, was signed off on Saturday with different parties showing their strength in Varanasi.

On Monday, 41 seats will go to polls that are spread over 18 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, 17 in West Bengal and six in Bihar.

The stretched out and fatigue-inflicting election schedule still retains an element of anxiety with Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi pitched in a multi-cornered contest in Varanasi against Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, Congress’ Ajai Rai, Samajwadi Party’s Kailash Chaurasia and BSP’s Vijay Jaiswal.

To display their individual might on the last day of electioneering, the Congress, SP and AAP held separate roadshows bringing the holy city to a standstill.  Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi-led cavalcade chugged along the street for  four hours, seeking support for local leader Rai in the morning.

The Gandhi scion ended the verbal spat with the BJP’s prime ministerial pick by saying, “Modiji, please change your poster - say that you will respect women and stop sending the police or tapping phones of women in Gujarat. Don’t give them strength, give a little respect”. Ensuring that Chaurasia is not counted as “also ran candidate”, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav along with his supporters donning red Nehru caps, also hit the street to send a message to the minorities that they were equally committed to checking Modi’s influence in the state.

The Election Commission, which is facing criticism for being partisan and failing to curb rigging, besides lacking unanimity among the three commissioners, has put up heavy deployment of paramilitary forces in Varanasi and other adjoining areas to ensure that the polling goes smoothly.

The May 12 polling will decide the fate of some of the top leaders of TMC in West Bengal, including sitting MP Sudip Bandopadhyay who is in the fray from Kolkata (N).

The most interesting battle among the six segments in Bihar is being played out in Vaisahali, where RJD sitting MP Raghuvansh Prasad Singh is asserting the resurgence of Yadav-dominated party after years in this elections.

The BJP had won two out of six constituencies in the 2009 polls in this belt but that was with the alliance of JD(U), which has since parted ways.

The elections which were being fought on good governance and development issues have eventually slipped into a crude caste-war as the focus shifted to the Hindi heartland.

The elections are witnessing an unprecedented turnout of voters and the polling in 502 seats so far has already crossed 57.94 per cent voting recorded in the last parliamentary polls.