Indian Express

8th phase of LS polls today: 1,737 candidates in fray but all eyes on Rahul Gandhi

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The fate of 1,737 candidates, including Rahul Gandhi (Amethi) and his cousin Varun (Sultanpur) is in the hands of voters. The fate of 1,737 candidates, including Rahul Gandhi (Amethi) and his cousin Varun (Sultanpur) is in the hands of voters.

Having won in 2009 nearly half of the 64 seats going to polls in the penultimate round on Tuesday, Congress appears to face a difficult task when people in the whole of Seemandhra, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand cast their vote in the Lok Sabha elections today.

Conversely its main rival BJP, which currently has only five seats in today’s round, may have everything to gain if it improves its performance in parts of heartland UP and Bihar that go to polls along with some constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir.

Of the 64 seats in seven states, including West Bengal, Congress had won 31 in 2009 while BJP had five.

In all, voters in seven states will pick their candidates in the eighth of the nine-phased elections. Already elections have been completed in 438 of the 543 constituencies. 41 seats will go to polls in the last round on May 12.

Faced with complaints of large scale rigging in some places, the Election Commission on Tuesday said that it has increased videography of polling stations to ensure free and fair poll.

The fate of 1,737 candidates, including Rahul Gandhi (Amethi), his cousin Varun (Sultanpur), Union minister Beni Prasad Verma (Gonda), cricketer-turned-politician Md Kaif (Phulpur-all in UP), Ram Vilas Paswan (Hajipur), Rabri Devi and Rajiv Pratap Rudy (Saran-all in Bihar) is in the hands of 18.47 crore voters who are eligible to cast their franchise.

Elections will also be held tomorrow in Mandi in Himachal Pradesh where Pratibha, wife of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, is contesting while Anurag Thakur, sitting MP and son of former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal, is the candidate in Hamirpur. Seemandhra, comprising the areas of Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra, accounting for 25 parliamentary seats, will vote tomorrow for both Lok Sabha and Assembly. In the last two Parliamentary elections, Congress had done exceedingly well and had contributed overwhelmingly to the making of the UPA
governments at the Centre.

In 2009, the Congress had won 19 of the 25 seats in the region. It had also formed the government in Andhra Pradesh on both the occasions.

The demise of strongman Y S Rajashekhar Reddy shortly after the 2009 polls and the split in the party effected by his son Y S Jaganmohan Reddy coupled with politics over division of the state have combined to pose big hurdles for the party in the current elections.

Besides, Andhra Pradesh, elections will be held in seven Lok Sabha constituencies in Bihar, 15 in UP, six in West Bengal, five in Uttarakhand, four in Himachal Pradesh and two in Jammu and Kashmir.

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