New Delhi: The stage is now set for the first substantial round of polling in the Lok Sabha elections tomorrow involving nearly 11 crore voters in 92 seats spread across 11 states, including Delhi and the national capital region and the riot-hit Muzaffarnagar.
This will be the third round in the nine-phased elections which began on April 7 and will conclude on May 12. Tomorrow’s round will also cover three Union Territories.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, seven union ministers including Kapil Sibal, Kamal Nath, Shashi Tharoor (all of Congress), Ajit Singh of RLD and former army chief V K Singh and Harsh Vardhan (both BJP) are the key nominees among the 1419 candidates in the fray in tomorrow’s round.
Ten of the 80 constituencies in politically key Uttar Pradesh will go to polls tomorrow and they include communally-sensitive and riot-hit Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Kairana, Aligarh, Bijnor, Meerut, Baghpat, Ghaziabad, Gautambudh Nagar and Bulandshahar.
With Narendra Modi aide Amit Shah’s controversial “revenge” remarks in Muzaffarnagar having stirred a controversy, significance is attached to polling in these ten constituencies.
Prominent among those contesting in this phase are Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh pitted against former Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh (BJP) in Baghpat, recent RLD entrant actress-politician Jaya Prada (Bijnor), film stars Nagma (Meerut) and Raj Babbar (Ghaziabad-both Cong), AAP’s Shazia Ilmi and former Army chief and BJP’s V K Singh in Ghaziabad, and riot accused Kadir Rana (BSP) in Muzaffarnagar.
Seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi will go to polls in which an estimated 1.27 crore voters will decide the fate of a total of 150 candidates including Congress’ minister Kapil Sibal, former minister Ajay Maken, Delhi BJP president Harsh Vardhan, former DPCC chief J P Agarwal and Sandeep Dikshit, son of former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi and Bhojpuri singer Manoj Tiwari.
Another important state going to poll tomorrow is Bihar where six of the total of 40 seats will be decided including Sasaram where Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar is seeking another victory.
In the wake of three-cornered contests in almost all 40 seats in Bihar, every seat will count and voting for six seats could show which way the wind is blowing in the state.
Other important leaders in fray tomorrow in Bihar include former Kerala Governor Nikhil Kumar and Chirag Paswan, actor-turned politician son of LJP President Ramvilas Paswan.
Kerala will witness a one-day polling to all its 20 seats where ruling Congress-led UDF and opposition CPI (M)-led LDF are locked in a fierce combat.
Among the key candidates in fray are six Union Ministers – Shashi Tharoor, Kodikunnil Suresh, K C Venugopal, K V Thomas, Mullapally Ramachandran, P C Chacko (all Congress) and E Ahamed (IUML) and former Union Minister M P Veerendrakumar.
Madhya Pradesh will have polling in nine Lok Sabha constituencies where senior Congress leader and Union Minister Kamal Nath, former Union Minister and BJP leader Faggan Singh Kulaste and state Congress leader Ajay Singh are in fray among others.
Like Kerala, Haryana goes to single-phase poll to all its 10 Lok Sabha seats with four-cornered contests between Congress, BJP-HJC BL combine, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and AAP.
Among leading candidates in Haryana are Congress’ industrialist-MP Naveen Jindal, Deepender Hooda, son of Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and Rao Inderjit Singh who switched over from Congress to BJP.
The lone Lok Sabha seat in Chandigarh Union Territory will also go to polls where main contestants are sitting Congress MP Pawan Bansal, two actor-turned-politicians Kirron Kher (BJP) and Gul Panag (AAP).
Odisha will witness polling in ten Lok Sabha and 70 assembly seats in the first phase and several constituencies fall under Maoist-hit areas where the red rebels have given a call for poll boycott.
Altogether 98 candidates, including Congress stalwarts and former chief ministers Giridhar Gamang and Hemanand Biswal, former union ministers Jual Oram (BJP) and Bhakta Charan Das (Congress) are in the race for the ten LS seats while Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is among the assembly candidates in fray tomorrow. Besides Lok Sabha elections in Odisha, over 50 of the 70 Assembly seats in the state are going to polls tomorrow.
As the seats going to polls are in Maoist-hit areas, the Election Commission has stepped up security measures with 156 companies of central paramilitary forces and around 27,000 policemen besides three helicopters.
Maoists have given a poll boycott call in certain pockets. Altogether 21 Assembly segments have been identified as highly affected by Left Wing extremism, while 15 are moderately affected and 20 less affected.
Another 22 Assembly seats have been identified as communally sensitive where extra vigil is needed to be maintained during the elections.
“We have an additional 60 companies (100 personnel in a company) of CPMF besides an existing 96 companies of central forces in the state. The central forces will be deployed in the first phase polling. Three helicopters have been pressed into election duty,” Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Odisha, Mona Sharma said.–PTI