India’s general elections cross the halfway mark with 116 constituencies spread over 13 states and two union territories going to polls on April 23.
In first two phases, voters in 186 constituencies have already cast their votes. Of the total 543 parliamentary seats, with completion of third phase polling process would be over in 302 seats on April 23.
Elections to two seats— Vellore and Tripura East— could not be held in the second phase. The Vellore polls were cancelled due to seizure of money from DMK leaders making it a dubious first in parliamentary elections. Tripura East polls have to be postponed due to security considerations. It is now being held with third phase constituencies.
All the 20 Parliamentary seats of Kerala and remaining 14 seats of Karnataka go to polls in the third phase marking completion of electoral process in all the five southern states of India. Similarly with last five seats from the northeast— 4 from Assam and one Tripura East— all the 25 seats of the region would have polled by end of third phase.
Six seats of Odisha go to polls in the third phase. All the seats are held by BJD and it would attempt to retain them despite an aggressive push from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.
As electioneering moves north, crossing Vindhyas, the polling process from the fourth phase onwards is likely to turn progressively acrimonious as this covers a large swathe of the Hindi heartland where politics is most polarised.
It’s been a long-drawn dream of BJP to conquer Kerala, the southernmost state which is the most developed state of India with best social development indicators. The state has been altering between the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by Congress and Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by CPI(M).
The BJP which has been inconsequential in the state so far smells an opportunity this time riding on the back of Sabarimala verdict. The Supreme Court verdict that allowed entry of menstruating women to enter the Lord Ayappa’s temple on September 2018 has divided the most educated population of India as never before.
BJP therefore expects to turn the contest triangular in at least two constituencies and open its account in the Parliament. Earlier in 2016 it could win its first assembly seat. The BJP is being accused of trying to communalise the state with unique distinction of 45% population comprising of Christians and Muslims.
The state faced its worse floods in 100 years. The Left Front government that managed the fall out well is facing a real test in overcoming the Sabarimala storm. Congress party caught in between maintains two different positions over Sabarimala in Delhi and in Trivanthapuram. The party expects its fortunes would change with Rahul Gandhi’s nomination from Wayanad.
North Karnataka goes to polls on April 23 in which BJP has an advantage. The party is dependent on the support of dominant Lingayats. Of the 14 seats in the region BJP currently holds 11. But on the other hand unlike 2014 the Congress and JD(S) are in an alliance. The key to success of the Congress would be how votes get transferred from JD(S) supporters. The personal popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is high in the region. Therefore it is a tough electoral contest.
Maharashtra faces elections in 14 seats. The seats are spread out in all four regions of North, South, West and Marathwada. NCP-Congress is in seat sharing alliance in the state as opposed to continued alliance of BJP-Shiv Sena. The prominent seats in the third phase include Jalna, where state BJP president Raosaheb Danveis in the fray against Vilas Autade of the Congress. In Baramati, Supriya Sule, the daughter of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, is contesting against BJP’s Kanchan Kul.
Sujay Vikhe Patil son of sugar baron Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil has joined BJP and is contesting from Ahmednagar. The father is Congress Leader of Opposition in the state assembly but is campaigning for his son.
Uttar Pradesh goes to polls in 10 constituencies where MY equation or Muslim-Yadav vote bank would be tested. Though there is powerful alliance between BSP and SP, there is worry whether a share of minority vote would be taken away by Congress. Akhilesh Yadav who heads the SP would also be under test as his uncle Shivpal Yadav has broken away and floated his own party.
The constituencies that are going to poll have higher Muslim and Ahir votes. The Yadav/Ahir vote base is estimated around 26% in Aonla, 21% each in Firozabad and Mainpuri, and 14% in Etah. The maximum base of Muslim voters – 45% — is in Moradabad. This estimate is 44% in Rampur, 38% in Sambhal, 31% in Bareilly, and 25% in Pilibhit.
Maneka Gandhi has been shifted from Pilibhit where her son Varun is contesting. Sambhal, Utah and Mainpuri are the pocket borough of Mulayam Singh Yadav. In a rare first time appearance after the famous Guest House ‘Kand’ or episode 18 years ago Mulayam and Mayawati shared common platform to seek votes. The two were bitter rival all these years.
The phase was marked by bitter and polarising speeches delivered by chief minister Yogi Adiyatnath and Maneka Gandhi. The Election Commission banned Yogi and Mayawati from campaigning for a few days for their divisive speeches.
The four seats of Assam will test the mettle of the third force in the elections Badruddin Ajmal, who is popularly known as the perfume king. He will be defending Dhubri seat. Congress seeks to improve its tally in the region.
In Bihar’s Madhepura constituency, controversial Rajesh Ranjan or Pappu Yadav, strongman of the region will try his luck as an independent candidate against four time MP Sharad Yadav, who’s now an RJD candidate. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is taking a personal interest in the battle to ensure defeat of Sharad Yadav. Five seats of the states go in the third phase for polls. Ten seats have already polled in the first to phases.
Chattisgarh’s seven out of 11 seats go to poll on Tuesday. Congress is expecting to do well after a sweep in the assembly polls last year. Since the parliamentary polls are being held within six months of the assembly polls the expectations of a similar outcome. BJP will however try to win MPs from the state which it had ruled continuously for more than a decade.
Two seats of Goa are going to polls. The battle is crucial for BJP as it is being held after the demise of popular chief minister and former defence minister Manohar Parrikar. Congress which managed to win the assembly despite being single largest party would try to improve its chances.
All the 26 seats of Gujarat go to polls in the third phase. Following the Modi Wave, all the parliament seats went to BJP and Congress party drew a blank. The party now expects to make a dent with help from Hardik Patel. In 2017 assembly elections Congress attempted a comeback and won substantial seats in 182 member assembly. BJP in a record performance managed a simple majority, but it was after intensive campaign by Narendra Modi himself. Since then there have been several resignations from the Congress party and its members have joined BJP. It would be one of the most keenly watched states.
In the lone constituency that goes to polls in the third phase from Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, PDP leader and former chief minister is contesting from Anantnag seat. BJP which was in alliance with PDP withdrew its support resulting in fall of the government. The state is now under President’s rule. The state is on the boil following the Pulwama attack. The state is likely to vote over BJP’s insistence on abrogation of article 370 and 35A.
It’s a crorepati contest of sorts in West Bengal where 11 crorepatis are contesting in the five seats of third phase in the state. Abhijit Mukherjee, son of former President Pranab Mukherjee is contesting from Jangipur. Malda which has been a stronghold of Congress has seen a rebellion. Mausam Noor, sitting MP has switched from Congress to Trinamool Congress causing heartburns in the Congress party. She is a niece of Late Abdul Ghani Khan Choudhury, a former minister a staunch loyalist of Gandhi-Nehru family.
Daman and Diu
In Daman and Diu, the sitting MP, BJP’s Lalubhai Patel, will again face Congress’ Ketan Patel whom he defeated in the last election. Patel has won the seat for two consecutive terms in 2009 and 2014.