The Final phase of poll begins today with 10.17 crore people across seven states and a union territory voting to elect its next union government
All eyes are on Varanasi and Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, Patna Sahib and Patiliputra in Bihar; Gurdaspur and Amritsar in Punjab; and nine in West Bengal that the BJP hopes to wrest to compensate for the possible losses in the Hindi heartland of UP, MP and Rajasthan.
The toughest and violent election is taking place in West Bengal as the Trinamool Congress slapped a defamation notice against the Prime Minister while BJP leader Dr Himanta Biswa Sharma promising surprise result in Bengal for BJP.
Voters are quesing since early morning to beat the heat across 59 Lok Sabha constituencies in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chandigarh will decide the fate of as many as 918 candidates in the final phase of the elections.
The BJP has the most at stake in this phase, having won almost half of the 59 seats in the 2014 polls. While the party will face off against a grand alliance of opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh, its main rivals in Bihar, Punjab and West Bengal are the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress respectively.
In Punjab, the BJP is hoping that its gamble of fielding Sunny Deol, who acted in a number of patriotic films hoped to ride on the back of nationalist fervour generated by the Balakot air strikes. His main rival is sitting Congress parliamentarian Sunil Jakhar.
In Bihar’s Patna Sahib, actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha takes on Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in a role reversal of the battle of the giants. Although Mr Sinha had contested on a BJP ticket to win the previous election by over 4.85 lakh votes in 2014, he is being fielded as the joint Congress-Rashtriya Janata Dal candidate this time.
In West Bengal, amidst continuous violence over 1.49 crore voters will decide the fate of 111 candidates in nine constituencies of Bengal — Kolkata North, Kolkata South, Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jadavpur, Diamond Harbour, Jaynagar and Mathurapur — in the final phase of the elections. Most of them will witness a four-cornered contest between the Trinamool Congress, the BJP, the Congress and the Left.
Chandigarh, the lone union territory going to the polls in the seventh phase, will witness a high-stakes triangular battle between the BJP’s Kirron Kher, Congress candidate Pawan Kumar Bansal and Harmohan Dhawan of the Aam Aadmi Party.