Breaking most records of voter turnout in four phases after registering an impressive 68.29% polling, the festival of biggest democracy enters into the crucial fifth phase on Thursday where 121 seats across 11 states and one UT are in the contest.
Riding high on its remarkable success, the Election Commission hopes to maintain the tempo of voter turnout in this phase too, the biggest so far.
The fingers of 166.1 million electors will hold the key to the fortunes of 1,769 candidates who are in the fray in this phase. The balance of these 121 seats as per 2009 elections hangs in favour of BJP that had come victorious on 40 seats as against 36 seats of Congress.
Crossing the halfway mark, this phase will also decide the fate of several key contenders that includes Nandan Nilekani, Veerappa Moily, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Sachin Pilot of Congress, Maneka Gandhi, Gopinath Munde, Shatrughan Sinha and Karia Munda of BJP and also the likes of former prime minister HD Deve Gowda of JD-S, Supriya Sule of NCP, Lalu Prasad's eldest daughter Misa Bharti, AAP's Gul Panag and TMC's Baichung Bhutia.
The EC is keeping its fingers crossed as 10 hyper-sensitive constituencies in Maoist strongholds of Girdih, Ranchi, Khunti, Simdega, and west Singhbhum in Jharkhand, Lakhisarai, Hazaribagh and Jahanabad in Bihar and Rajnandgaon and Kanker in Chhattisgarh are going to the polls amid an unprecedented security umbrella provided by the Centre.
This phase marks the completion of election in major states of Karnataka with all its 28 seats going to the polls and Odisha where electors will cast their ballots for the remainder of 11 seats.
Going through an intense campaign by both national as well as state bigwigs in sharp bipolar contests, Karnataka offers a keen electoral battle where both Congress and BJP are claiming an edge.
The other states in contention are Rajasthan (20 seats), Maharashtra (19), Uttar Pradesh (11), Madhya Pradesh (10), Bihar (7), Jharkhand (6), West Bengal (4), Chhattisgarh (3), Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur (1 each).
In the Mahabharata for Maharashtra, 358 candidates are in the fray that includes seasoned stalwarts like Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, ex-CM Ashok Chavan, BJP leader Gopinath Munde and NCP leaders Supriya Sule and Nilesh Rane. Of the 19 seats up for contest, Congress has six sitting MPs, BJP two, Shiv Sena four and NCP three.
In Bihar, 117 candidates are in the fray for seven seats of which JDU has four sitting MPs, while BJP and RJD have one each.
About 18 million voters will decide the fate of 151 candidates contesting for 11 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh where currently SP has four sitting MPs, BJP has two and Congress, BSP and RLD have one each.
The fate of 98 candidates, including 11 women, will be decided for 11 seats that are going to polls in Odisha. The key candidates in contest in Odisha, include Congress stalwart Srikant Jena and former Union minister Arjun Sethi of BJD.
Voting in the shadow of guns, electors of Jharkhand will decide the fate of 106 candidates up in contest for six seats. Deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha Karia Munda of BJP, Jayant Sinha, son of former Union minister Jaswant Sinha and former Union minister Subodh Kant Sahay of Congress figure as some of the main contestants.
Twenty seats going to polls in Rajasthan will decide the fate of 239 candidates. Of these Congress has 15 sitting MPs while BJP has four.
Marred by ugly political fights that forced Election Commission to intervene several times, four constituencies of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Alipurduar are going to the polls in West Bengal. With Mamata gunning to oust the Left, the contest is being watched closely by the EC as three of the four seats are currently held by Left parties and Darjeeling by the BJP.
Darjeeling promises a keen contest where GJP backed BJP leader SS Ahluwalia is fighting superstar of Indian football Baichung Bhutia of Trinamool Congress. .