India goes to poll from Thursday

India goes to poll from Thursday

The mega festival of Indian democracy – the Lok Sabha Elections – will kick-start on Thursday with lakhs of voters in 91 constituencies spread over 20 states and union territories queueing up to choose their MPs and set the tone for the seven-phase polls.

The mega festival of Indian democracy – the Lok Sabha Elections – will kick-start on Thursday with lakhs of voters in 91 constituencies spread over 20 states and union territories queueing up to choose their MPs and set the tone for the seven-phase polls.

The hectic campaigning for the first phase, which saw principle campaigners Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi criss-crossing the country, ended on Tuesday 5 PM with warring parties making the last minute dash to secure the votes, especially those swinging voters.

Along with the Lok Sabha polls, Assembly elections to Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim will also be held on the same day. Assembly seats in four Odisha Lok Sabha constituencies will also go to polls on Thursday while the rest of the seats will go to polls in the when Lok Sabha seats in the state goes to polls in the three phases.

Much is at stake for all the parties in the poll that would determine whether the BJP-led NDA would return to power or whether Opposition can manage to upstage Narendra Modi's apple-cart even as pre-poll surveys indicated that the Narendra Modi-led combine has the edge, with some giving it majority and others predicting the alliance close to majority.

The polls will cover all the 543 seats by May 19 and the counting of votes will be held on May 23.

In the first phase, BJP has the highest number of sitting MPs at 30 while the main opposition Congress has just seven among the present MPs in Lok Sabha. The TDP has 16 sitting seats while TRS has 11, YSR Congress 9 and BJD 4.

Of the 91 sitting MPs in these states, only 54 are in the fray again with BJP fielding 21 out of their 30 sitting MPs and TDP putting 10 of them again. Some of the TDP MPs had defected to YSR Congress ahead of the polls.

While all the 25 seats in Andhra, 17 in Telangana and five in Uttarakhand will go to polling booths in the first phase, eight out of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, seven out of 48 in Maharashtra and four out of 40 in Bihar will also see voters exercising their franchise.

Five out of 14 in Assam, Two out of five seats in Jammu and Kashmir, one out of 11 seats in Chhattisgarh and two out of 42 in West Bengal besides nine out of 11 seats in north-east barring Assam and one each seat in Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep will also go to polls in the first phase.

All eyes will be on how the eight seats in Jat-dominated western Uttar Pradesh will vote in the first phase where the SP-BSP-RLD combine is up against BJP, which has seven sitting MPs from these seats. With initial indications from the ground suggesting an edge for the SP-BSP-RLD combine, the voting pattern would determine the future course of campaign by the BJP in the state where opinion polls suggested it may lose at least 30-35 seats it won last time.

Only four seats – BJP 3 and LJP 1 – are going to polls in Bihar, and in none of these seats NDA ally JD(U) is the contestant. BJP is fighting Aurangabad, Gaya and Nawada – from where Union Minister Giriraj Singh reluctantly shifted to Begusarai – and Jamui where LJP chief Ramvilas Paswan's son Chirag is seeking re-election.

Maharashtra's seven seats in Vidharbha region will also goes to the polls in the first phase in which the high-profile contest is in Nagpur where Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari is locked in an interesting battle with Congress' Nana Patole, a former BJP MP. Here too, none of the Congress sitting seats is going to polls.

Andhra Pradesh, which is witnessing simultaneous polls, is witnessing a key contest where the incumbent N Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP is facing stiff challenge from YS Jaganmohan Reddy-led YSR Congress even as pollsters predicted that the latter could upstage the ruling party in both Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.

In neighbouring Telangana, K Chandrasekhar Rao-led TRS, fresh from Assembly poll victory in December, is on a strong wicket. In both these states, Congress and BJP have nothing much to gain. 

Seats : 91

States: Andhra Pradesh (25/25), Arunachal Pradesh (2/2), Assam (5/14), Bihar (4/40), Chhattisgarh (1/11), Jammu and Kashmir

(2/5), Maharashtra (7/48), Manipur (1/2), Meghalaya (1/1), Mizoram (1/1), Nagaland (1/1), Odisha (4/21), Sikkim (1/1),

Telangana (17/17), Tripura (1/2), UP (8/80), Uttarakhand (5/5), West Bengal (2/42), Andaman and Nicobar (1/1), Lakshadweep

** 54 out of 91 sitting MPs recontesting

Party/Sitting MP contesting/Total Sitting MPs

BJP -- 21/30

TDP -- 10/16

TRS -- 8/11

Congress -- 2/7

YSR Congress -- 2/9

Shiv Sena -- 2/2

Trinamool Congress -- 2/2

BJD -- 1/4

NCP -- 1/2

LJP -- 1/1

CPI(M) -- 1/1

Prominent Contestants


Nagpur -- Nitin Gadkari (BJP), Nana Patole (Congress)

Kaliabor -- Gaurav Gogoi (Congress)

Jamui -- Chirag Paswan (LJP)

Hyderabad -- Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM)

Khamman -- Renuka Chowdhury (Congress)

Shillong -- Vincent Pala (Congress)

Tura -- Mukul Sangma (Congress), Agatha Sangma (NPP)

Arunachal West -- Kiren Rijiju (BJP), Nabam Tuki (Congress)

Muzaffarnagar -- Ajit Singh (RLD), Sanjeev Ballyan (BJP)

Ghaziabad -- Gen V K Singh

Gautam Buddh Nagar -- Mahesh Sharma

Bhagpat -- Satyapal Singh (BJP), Jayant Chowdhary (RLD)

Vizianagaram -- Ashok Gajpathi Raju (TDP)

Nizamabad -- K Kavitha (TRS)