Millions of Indians will vote today in the third phase of the mammoth parliamentary elections covering 116 constituencies spread over 15 states and federally-administered territories.
The focus of the third phase will be on all the 26 parliamentary seats in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendrra Modi’s home state, in a direct battle between the BJP and the Congress and on Communist-ruled Kerala.
Polling in Kerala will be held for all the 20 seats in a triangular contest among the Left Front and its main rival the Congress-headed United Democratic Front. The BJP is the third force in Kerala.
An interesting feature of tiny Kerala’s total electorate of about 2.62 crore is that women voters outnumber men. The number of male voters is about 1. 27 crore while female electors number at a little over 1.34 crore.
The third phase has the most number of constituencies voting in the seven-phase national election. With this, polling in 301 constituencies -- more than half of the total 543 constituencies, would be completed. The first two phases saw voting in 186 constituencies.
The chiefs of the both BJP and Congress are in fray in the third phase — BJP president Amit Shah is making his parliamentary poll debut from Gandhinagar in Gujarat while Congress president Rahul Gandhi is contesting from Wayanad (Kerala), one of the two constituencies he has filed his nomination from. Gandhi is also contesting from the family stronghold of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
Other key constituencies voting today are Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh where Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav is contesting and Gulbarga in Karnataka
where Congress’s senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge is pitted against the BJP’s Umesh Jadhav.
The campaign in the third phase saw the Election Commission debarring Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan for 72 hours for making an indecent remark on his rival and BJP’s candidate Jaya Prada, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath (72 hours), BSP supremo Mayawati (48 hours), and BJP’s Maneka Gandhi (48 hours), for making “provocative” speeches.
Polling will also be held for two seats in Goa, four in Assam, five in Bihar, seven in Chhattisgarh one in Jammu and Kashmir (Anantnag), 14 in Karnataka and Maharashtra, six in Odisha, 10 in Uttar Pradesh and five in West Bengal. Voting in Tripura East constituency, which was slated in the second phase, was deferred to the third phase on security concerns.
Voting for the fourth phase in 17 constituencies will be held on April 29 and the vote count will be held on May 23.
Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi yesterday expressed regret for “incorrectly attributing” a remark on the contentious Rafale deal to the Supreme Court, saying the comment was made in the “heat of the political campaigning” and that is was misused by his political opponents.
In an undertaking to the top court, Gandhi said, “I will not attribute any views, observations or findings to the Court in political addresses to the media and in public speeches, unless such views, observations or findings are recorded by the Court.”
The top court had sought an explanation from the Congress chief after BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi filed a contempt petition, seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against him.
Seeking stringent action against Gandhi, Lekhi tweeted, “It’s an admission of guilt and thus contempt. Considering the need to protect the integrity of the court in these testing times, such an admission is a vindication of the petition. I hope and pray that it is responded with strictest rebuke by the court.”