NEW DELHI (IANS) – Voting began on Sunday across 59 Lok Sabha constituencies spanning seven states and a Union Territory across north, central and east India in the final of the mega seven-phase electoral exercise.
A total electorate of over 10.1 crore is eligible to cast their ballots in this phase which covers all remaining seats in the three states — Uttar Pradesh (13, including the high-profile Varanasi constituency), Bihar (8) and West Bengal (9) – where polling took place across all seven phases, as well as in Madhya Pradesh (8) and Jharkhand (3) which also saw multi-stage voting.
All the 13 constituencies in Punjab, one in Chandigarh, and four in Himachal Pradesh also figure in this phase.
The 918 candidates in this phase include Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Varanasi, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who faces actor-politician and sitting MP Shatrughan Sinha (now in the Congress) in Patna Sahib, and actor-turned-politicians Sunny Deol in Gurdaspur (BJP), and Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan, both contesting for the Trinamool Congress from Jadavpur and Basirhat, respectively.
Also contesting are Union Ministers Hardeep Singh Puri (Amritsar), Manoj Sinha (Ghazipur), R.K. Singh (Arrah) — all from BJP, Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal (Mirzapur) Harsimrat Kaur from ally Akali Dal in Bathinda and her husband and party President Sukhbir Singh Badal in Ferozepur, former Union Minister Preneet Kaur (Congress) in Patiala, and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad’s eldest daughter Misa Bharti (Patliputra).
In this phase, the BJP will be defending 30 seats – 11 of the 12 it won in Uttar Pradesh in 2014 as it later lost Gorakhpur in a bypoll, seven in Madhya Pradesh, all four in Himachal Pradesh, five in Bihar, one each in Punjab, Jharkhand and Chandigarh.
Allies Apna Dal won one in Uttar Pradesh and the Akali Dal four in Punjab, while then ally Rashtriya Lok Samta Party of Upendra Kushwaha had won two in Bihar. The Janata Dal-United, which is now an ally, won one seat in Bihar.
The Congress had won five seats — one in Madhya Pradesh and four in Punjab.
Four seats were won by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab and two by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in Jharkhand. One seat is currently held by the Samajwadi Party.
In West Bengal, all nine seats were won by the Trinamool Congress.
Re-polling is also being held in several booths in parliamentary seats in six states and in Assembly constituencies in two. These seats include Kerala’s Kannur and Kasargod, Tamil Nadu’s Dharmapuri, Theni, Thiruvallur, Cuddalore and Erode, Haryana’s Faridabad, Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh, West Bengal’s Bankura, Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor parliamentary and Chandgiri Assembly constituencies and 34 Assembly segments in 10 Odisha districts.
Voting is also being held in bypolls to four Assembly seats in Tamil Nadu, two in Karnataka and the Panaji Assembly seat, which fell vacant after death of Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.
The Lok Sabha elections started on April 11. Counting of votes will take place on May 23.