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Campaigning ends for high-voltage 8th phase of Lok Sabha elections
The high octane campaign for the penultimate phase of Lok Sabha elections which saw Narendra Modi embroiled in a bitter war of words with Priyanka Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee today ended in 64 constituencies, including Amethi where Rahul Gandhi is seeking re-election and 25 seats in Seemandhra, which will go to polls on Wednesday.
In his campaign blitz on the last day in Uttar Pradesh, where 15 seats will go to polls on May 7, Modi invoked Lord Ram in Faizabad and stormed Amethi to campaign for BJP candidate Smriti Irani, saying people now want a “change”.
Rahul’s cousin and BJP leader Varun Gandhi from neighbouring Sultanpuri, LJP President Ramvilas Paswan from Hajipur in Bihar and BJP stalwart Shanta Kumar from Kangra in Himachal Pradesh are among the nearly 900 candidates in fray in seven states in this phase.
72 candidates are contesting in six seats in West Bengal where Modi raised the emotive issue of illegal immigrants, drawing a sharp reaction from Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee who called the BJP PM candidate a “paper tiger” and accused him of stoking communal fire.
Modi hit back at Banerjee daring her to prove herself a “real tiger” by taking action against the culprits in the Saradha scam.
Pressure is on the Left Front in this round to retain the six seats it had won the last time as nine-time MP Basudeb Acharia, former actresses Moonmoon Sen and Sandhya Roy and singer Babul Supriyo are expected to give a tough fight.
In Bihar, where 118 candidates are contesting, former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad’s wife Rabri Devi is seeking to make her debut in the Lok Sabha from Saran, which is among the seven seats in the state going for polls on May 7. Rabri is pitted against BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
This round of elections in the Gangetic plains of Bihar will see crucial fight in Hajipur (SC) where LJP President Ramvilas Paswan is in the fray.
Five of the seven LS seats going to the polls on Wednesady had been won by JD(U) in 2009. Saran and Maharajganj went to RJD.
Both Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are going for a single-phased election on Wednesday. While Himachal Pradesh has four seats, Uttarakhand has five. Baramulla and Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir are also going to polls on Wednesday.
After the Telangana region voted in the last phase, it is now the turn for Seemandhra region of Andhra Pradesh to cast votes on May 7, with 333 candidates contesting from 25 Lok Sabha seats. Lok Sabha and assembly elections are being held simultaneously in Andhra Pradesh.
These are the last Lok Sabha and Assembly polls being held in the undivided Andhra Pradesh.
Telangana will come into being as the 29th state of the country on June 2.
Rapid development of the residuary state, TDP’s promises to waive farm loans and appoint two deputy CMs, YSRCP President Y S Jaganmohan Reddy’s promised sops for women and farmers were the main poll campaign themes in Seemandhra.
Jaganmohan Reddy, his mother and YSRCP honorary president Y S Vijayamma and sister Sharmila extensively canvassed for the YSR Congress.
The main contest appears to be between the TDP-BJP combine and YSRCP.
The shrill campaign has often been marked by vitriolic accusations mainly between the two regional parties over allegations of massive corruption against YSRCP and “false promises” and “lack of credibility” for TDP.
In Uttar Pradesh, besides grandsons of former prime Minister Indira Gandhi – Rahul and Varun, Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma (Gonda) and cricketer-turned-politician Mohd Kaif (Phulpur) are among 243 candidates in the fray in this phase.
Also Congress state president Nirmal Khatri (Faizabad) and poet-turned-politician and Aam Aadmi Paty’s Kumar Vishwas (Amethi) are contesting.
In Amethi, while Vishwas is banking on the power of “aam aadmi”, Irani is trying to cash in on Modi wave and by highlighting “lack of development” in Rahul’s 10 year regime as MP.
Varun, who was last time elected from Pilibhit, has shifted his base and is pitted against Amita Singh, wife of MP Sanjay Singh.
This phase is crucial for Congress as of 15 seats spread over 17 districts, seven were won by the party in 2009 polls while five seats are with the BSP and SP had won three seat.