Voters to seal fate of 1,279 LS candidates on Thursday

Workers shift election material at a distribution centre for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Thane on Wednesday. PTI

The Lok Sabha elections will kickstart from Thursday with 1,279 candidates battling it out in 91 constituencies in the first of the seven-phase polls that will determine who will rule the country for the next five years.

Along with the Lok Sabha polls, there will also be simultaneous elections to all the seats in the assemblies of Andhra Pradesh (175) and Sikkim (32) and Odisha (28 of the 147 seats).

All the 25 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra, 17 in Telangana and five in Uttarakhand, eight out of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, seven out of 48 in Maharashtra and four out of 40 in Bihar are among the seats that go to polls in the first phase.

Voters in five out of 14 in Assam, two out of five seats in Jammu & Kashmir, one out of 11 seats in Chhattisgarh and two out of 42 in West Bengal besides nine out of 11 seats in the Northeast barring Assam and one each seat in Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep will also queue up before polling booths.

The first phase of elections come as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his principal opponent Congress president Rahul are crisscrossing the country and locking horns over a variety of issues to set the agenda for the elections. BSP chief Mayawati, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, Trinamool Congress' Mamata Banerjee and TDP's N Chandrababu Naidu too raised the pitch in different parts of the country.

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The campaign season prior to the first phase saw Rahul pitching his campaign on 'Nyay', minimum income guarantee scheme, agrarian crisis, unemployment and corruption in the Rafale deal while Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah sought to put national security, Balakot strikes and the NDA government's record before the people.

This period also saw Rahul choosing to fight from Kerala's Wayanad besides his traditional seat, Uttar Pradesh's Amethi, triggering attacks from the BJP.

Indicating BJP's campaign tone, Modi asked first-time voters to vote in favour of those who conducted the airstrike in Pakistan's Balakot against terrorists while Shah likened Wayanad to Pakistan, referring to the green flags of Congress ally Muslim League in their campaigns.

Maoist attacks in Chhattisgarh's Bastar and Maharashtra's Gadchiroli just before Thursday polls also sent some shivers in the security establishment, prompting tightening security.

The Election Commission was also kept busy with complaints reaching the 'Nirvachan Sadan' on Modi's address to the nation, NaMo TV, the biopic on the Prime Minister and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's remarks on 'Modi-ji ki Sena' among others.

In the first phase of Parliamentary polls spread across 18 states and two Union Territories, prominent candidates include Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and seven Ministers of State, RLD chief Ajit Singh, AIMIM's Asaduddin Owaisi and Congress' Renuka Chowdhury.

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