Millions of Indians will vote today in the fourth phase of the mammoth parliamentary elections covering 72 constituencies spread over 9 states.
The stakes are high for the ruling BJP and its allies as it had swept 56 of these seats in 2014, leaving just two for the Congress and the rest for other opposition parties such as the Trinamool Congress and the Biju Janata Dal.
The states that will be voting are Bihar (5 constituencies), Jammu and Kashmir (1 constituency), Jharkhand (3), Madhya Pradesh (6 constituencies), Maharashtra (17 constituencies), Odisha (6 constituencies), Rajasthan (13 constituencies), Uttar Pradesh (13 constituencies) and West Bengal (8 constituencies).
The fate of 961 candidates, including Union ministers Giriraj Singh, Subhash Bhamre, S S Ahluwalia and Babul Supriyo of the BJP and former Union ministers Salman Khurshid and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the Congress, will be decided by about 12.79 core voters in this phase.
Among other key contestants in the fray are Kanhaiya Kumar (CPI), Baijayant Panda (BJP), Urmila Matondkar (Congress), Dimple Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Satabdi Roy (TMC) and Milind Deora (Congress).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and a host of Union ministers among others canvassed for their party candidates over the past few days, undertaking whirlwind tours of constituencies.
In Maharashtra, where election will come to end with this phase, the opposition Congress is facing a tough task of reclaiming its lost base in north Maharashtra and Mumbai, while the NCP of Sharad Power is trying to get a foothold in Thane district and Western Maharashtra. The BJP and its ally Shiv Sena had won all 17 seats in 2014.
During campaigning, which mainly remained centred around issues such as nationalism and agricultural distress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to woo rural as well as urban voters by highlighting infrastructural and development work done under his rule.
For his part, Congress president Rahul Gandhi tried to project the Congress’s proposed minimum income guarantee scheme “NYAY” as a game changer for the poor, reported India Today.
Today’s voting in three constituencies will be the first phase in the BJP-ruled Jharkhand. Addressing poll rallies in Jharkhand this week, a host of top BJP leaders, including Modi and party president Amit Shah, appealed to the people to re-elect the NDA to take forward the development work and protect the country.
In West Bengal, all the eight seats, which are spread across four districts, will see a four-cornered contest between Trinamool Congress, BJP, Congress and the Left Front.
Election to 542 Lok Sabha seats is being conducted in seven phases between April 11 and May 19. Election in Vellore constituency in Tamil Nadu has been cancelled following excess use of money power.
In the first three phases, voting has been held in 302 Lok Sabha constituencies apart from Anantnag constituency in Jammu and Kashmir. Results will be declared on May 23.