Campaigning ends in 9 states, union territories for April 30 poll

New Delhi (IANS): Campaigning ended Monday for the April 30 Lok Sabha polls in seven states and two union territories where nearly 139 million voters will decide the electoral fate of over 1,200 candidates who are in the fray for 89 Lok Sabha seats.

This is the eighth round of the staggered 10-phase general election that began April 7 and ends May 12. The votes will be counted May 16.

Simultaneous assembly polls are scheduled to be held for 119 seats in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. Besides, by-polls are being held in Bihar (one), Gujarat (seven), Uttar Pradesh (two) and one in West Bengal.

Balloting will take place Wednesday for 17 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh, seven in Bihar, 26 in Gujarat, one in Jammu and Kashmir, 13 in Punjab, 14 in Uttar Pradesh, 9 in West Bengal, and one each in the union territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli as well as Daman and Diu.

Electors in Gujarat and Punjab will be voting for the Lok Sabha seats from the respective states in a single-phase poll.

The eligible voters will cast their ballot at 152,673 polling booths across the 89 parliamentary constituencies where polling will begin at 7 a.m.

Gujarat has a maximum of 334 candidates contesting for its 26 parliamentary seats, while the union territory of Daman and Diu has the least number of candidates at a bare four.

In Uttar Pradesh, a keenly watched contest is in Rae Bareli where Congress president Sonia Gandhi is seeking her third consecutive term. She is pitted against Ajay Agarwal of the BJP, Pravesh Singh of the Bahujan Samaj Party and Archana Srivastava of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Her Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) counterpart Rajnath Singh is contesting from Lucknow, a seat that has been represented in the past by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Also in contention is veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, who, having been eased out of Varanasi by prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, will face the electorate in Kanpur.

Gujarat will witness BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi fight it out against Congress candidate Madhusudan Mistri in Vadodara. Modi is also contesting from Varanasi which will vote May 12.

BJP stalwart Lal Krishna Advani is contesting the Gandhinagar parliamentary seat.

In Andhra Pradesh, the key contestants include union minister S. Jaipal Reddy, Sarve Satyanarayana and Balram Naik, TRS chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao, his daughter K. Kavitha, Lok Satta party chief Jayaprakash Narayan and MIM president Asaduddin Owaisi.

As Telangana will formally become a separate state June 2, the Election Commission is holding the polls in undivided Andhra Pradesh, which is now under President’s rule.

The seven Lok Sabha constituencies of Bihar going to polls Wednesday are known to be backward pockets with high rates of poverty and illiteracy.

Prominent leaders in the fray are Sharad Yadav, Hukum Deo Narain Yadav, Ali Ashraf Fatmi, former cricketer Kirti Azad, Pappu Yadav, and NRI doctor Prabhat Ranjan Das.

In Jammu and Kashmir, retaining Srinagar appears to be a tough call for union minister Farooq Abdullah, the 78-year old National Conference patron and three-time state chief minister.

The constituency has been represented in the past by Abdullah’s mother, Begum Akbar Jahan. His son and state chief minister, Omar Abdullah has represented Srinagar in the Lok Sabha thrice.

Punjab will witness a tough electoral battle with the Congress seeking to make inroads in the ruling Akali Dal-BJP bastions.

The key contenders include BJP candidate Arun Jaitley fighting against Congress nominee Amarinder Singh for the Amritsar seat and Gurdaspur incumbent MP Pratap Singh Bajwa being pitted against three-time BJP MP and actor Vinod Khanna.

In West Bengal, the ruling Trinamool Congress and the main opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist are the main contenders in the electoral battle.

The BJP has, meanwhile, fielded celebrities like famed music composer Bappi Lahiri from Sreerampur, Bengali actor George Baker from Howrah and journalist-turned-party spokesperson Chandan Mitra from Hooghly.

The union territory of Daman and Diu will see sitting MP Lalubhai Patel of the BJP taking on Ketan Dahyabhai Patel of the Congress, Bhavesh Patel of the Bahujan Samaj Party and Kessur Goan of the AAP.

In Dadra and Nagar Haveli constituency, Natubhai Gomanbhai Patel, incumbent MP and BJP candidate, faces Delkar Mohanbhai Sanjibhai of the Congress, Khulat Janiyabhai Chandubhai of the Nationalist Congress Party and Chhotubhai Babubhai Patel of the AAP.