With the five-week national elections in India in its home stretch, polling in the eighth and penultimate phase will be held for 64 parliamentary seats today when the electoral fate of some political heavyweights, including Rahul Gandhi, will be decided.
In nearly half of the 64 seats, the Congress faces an uphill task with the electorate in the whole of Seemandhra, created after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, and parts of Uttar Pradesh (UP), Bihar and West Bengal casting their votes.
On the other hand, the BJP might have everything to gain if it improves its performance in the heartland of eastern UP, Bihar and Uttarakhand. As the bitterly-contested election campaign entered its last lap, a fresh war of words erupted between the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, and Rahul, the scion of Nehru-Gandhi family.
Using the caste card, Modi yesterday hit back at Congress' Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who had slammed him for what she described as “low-level politics” after he campaigned in Amethi, her brother Rahul's constituency.
“I belong to the lower caste of the society and that's why they think my politics is low-level politics,” Modi tweeted last morning. “This low-level politics will rescue our country from 60 years of misrule and vote bank politics, and wipe the tears of millions,” he added.
Modi has consistently showcased his humble origins and his past as one who used to vend tea in trains in his home state of Gujarat, comparing it with the privileged upbringing of his main political rival Rahul Gandhi whom he has mocked as “Shehzada” (prince) in many election speeches.
The fate of 1,737 candidates, including Rahul Gandhi and his cousin Varun of BJP (Sultanpur in UP), is in the hands of an estimated 18.47 crore voters who are eligible to exercise their franchise on Wednesday.
In West Bengal, left parties face a stiff challenge from the ruling Trinamool Congress in the six seats going to the polls today. Of the six seats, CPI(M) had won four and CPI and Forward Bloc one each in the last parliamentary polls five years ago.
Polling in 438 out of the total of 543 parliamentary seats has already been completed in seven phases since April 10. After today's polling in 64 constituencies, only 41 will go to the polls in the final phase on May 12 before votes are counted four days later in the world's longest and largest democratic exercise.