Sunday, July 21, 2024

Fifth phase: Voting to be held today on 49 Lok Sabha seats


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Amethi, Rae Bareli among high-profile contests; EC flags urban apathy

MUMBAI/LUCKNOW, May 19: Polling will be held on Monday in 49 constituencies in six states and two UTs in the fifth phase of Lok Sabha elections that will decide the electoral fate of several prominent leaders like former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani and former J-K chief minister Omar Abdullah.
Over 8.95 crore people, including 4.26 crore females and 5,409 third-gender electors, are eligible to vote in this round and 9.47 lakh polling officials have been deployed across 94,732 polling stations.
Among the seats going to polls, 13 are in Maharashtra, 14 in Uttar Pradesh, seven in West Bengal, five in Bihar, three in Jharkhand, five in Odisha, one in J-K and the lone seat in Ladakh. This round covers the least number of seats (49) in the seven-phase elections.
It is another important phase for the BJP as over 40 of these seats were with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
On the eve of poling, the Election Commission on Sunday pointed out that Mumbai, Thane and Lucknow have shown apathy towards voting in the past and asked city dwellers there to turn out in higher numbers.
The poll authority noted that in the past these cities have “suffered” from urban apathy in voting. “The Commission especially calls upon these city dwellers to erase the stigma by turning out in higher numbers,” it said.
So far, the last four phases have registered a total voter turnout of 66.95 per cent.
In Maharashtra, where polling will be held in 13 Lok Sabha constituencies, including six in Mumbai, Piyush Goyal, Bharati Pawar (Dindori) and Kapil Patil (Bhiwandi) are among the key nominees of the BJP, which has also fielded prominent lawyer Ujjwal Nikam (Mumbai North Central).
Shiv Sena’s Shrikant Shinde (Kalyan) and city Congress chief Varsha Gaikwad (Mumbai North Central) are also among the candidates in this phase, which is the last for the state in this election.
In Uttar Pradesh, Rajnath Singh (Lucknow), Irani (Amethi), Jyoti, Kaushal Kishor (Mohanlalganj) and Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma (Jalaun) are the five Union ministers in the fray. Voting will also take place for the assembly bypolls to the Lucknow East assembly constituency.
Rahul Gandhi, who has contested from Wayanad in Kerala, is also in the fight for Rae Bareli, a Nehru-Gandhi family pocket borough represented by his mother Sonia Gandhi since 2004. The BJP has fielded UP minister Dinesh Pratap Singh.
In Amethi, Irani, who had defeated Rahul Gandhi in 2019, is seeking a second term, while KL Sharma, an aide of the Gandhi family, has been fielded by the Congress.
Senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh is eyeing a fourth term from Lucknow. He is up against SP MLA from Lucknow Central Ravidas Mehrotra.
In the Faizabad Lok Sabha seat, which covers the temple town of Ayodhya, the electoral contest is mainly between sitting BJP MP Lallu Singh, who is seeking a hat-trick, and Awadhesh Prasad, the SP MLA from Milkipur (SC) assembly constituency in Ayodhya.
In Baramulla, besides Omar Abdullah, former separatist Sajad Lone, ex-MLA Sheikh Abdul Rashid alias ‘Engineer Rashid’, currently lodged in the Tihar jail, and the PDP’s former Rajya Sabha member Fayaz Ahmad Mir are among the 21 others contesting.
More than 500 centenarians are among the 17.37 lakh voters eligible to exercise their franchise in the constituency, with political observers expecting a high turnout on the back of the huge crowds that thronged election rallies and roadshows in the first major political battle post the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.
In Ladakh, Congress candidate Tsering Namgyal, BJP’s Tashi Gyalson, Independent candidate and NC rebel Haji Hanifa Jan are locked in a keen contest.
Security has been stepped up in West Bengal’s seven constituencies which have a history of election-related violence, with over 57 per cent of the polling stations identified as sensitive in this phase, the highest till now in this Lok Sabha election.
Over 60,000 personnel of central forces and around 30,000 personnel of the state police, have been deployed, which is more than in the four previous phases in the state, an official said.
BJP’s Arjun Singh, who has been in and out of the saffron party and the Trinamool Congress on four occasions in the last five years, is taking on West Bengal minister Partha Bhowmick in Barrackpore in a bid to retain the seat he won in 2019.
Actor Rachana Banerjee has been fielded by the TMC to stop actor and BJP candidate Locket Chatterjee from winning a straight second term from Hooghly.
In Serampore, the TMC’s sitting MP Kalyan Banerjee is fighting against the BJP’s Kabir Shankar Bose.
Voting will take place in Saran, Muzaffarpur, Hajipur, Sitamarhi and Madhubani Lok Sabha seats of Bihar, which are all with the NDA.
In Hajipur, the primary contest is between Chirag Paswan, whose late father Ram Vilas Paswan had won the seat eight times, and RJD’s Shiv Chandra Ram, a former MLA and ex-minister in the state.
Former Union minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy’s bid to score a hat-trick in Saran has been challenged by RJD president Lalu Prasad’s daughter Rohini Acharya, who had donated her kidney to her father.
Voting in three Jharkhand Lok Sabha constituencies – Chatra, Koderma and Hazaribag – and by-election in Gandey assembly seat, where Kalpana Soren, the wife of jailed former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, is contesting, will take place on Monday.
An interesting fight is expected in the Koderma Lok Sabha seat where Union Minister and BJP candidate Annapurna Devi is up against Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation nominee Vinod Singh, an MLA from Bagodar assembly constituency.
In Odisha, CM Patnaik is contesting from two assembly segments -Hinjili under the Aska Lok Sabha seat in Ganjam district and Kantabanji under the Bolangir parliamentary constituency.
Apart from Patnaik, major contestants include around half a dozen Odisha ministers, BJP’s sitting MPs Jual Oram and Sangeeta Singh Deo, BJD MP Achyut Samant and former Indian Hockey captain Dilip Tirkey.Around 45.1 crore electors have exercised their franchise in the last four phases.
Polling for 23 states and Union territories and 379 seats has been completed so far.
The sixth and seventh phases are on May 25 and June 1 respectively. The counting of votes is on June 4. (PTI)


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