Ruling BJP to defend 31 out of total 59 seats
The high-stakes election for the 17th Lok Sabha, which witnessed one of the most gruelling and hostile campaigns in the electoral history of the country, will finally come to end on Sunday with over 10 crore voters using their franchise in 59 constituencies across 7 states and a Union Territory in the seventh phase.
Despite being the final part at the end of a 38-day long tiresome schedule, interest for the last phase was rekindled among public following simultaneous press conferences by BJP chief Amit Shah and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. The phase is important for BJP as it is defending 31 out of 59 seats.
All parliamentary constituencies in Himachal Pradesh (4) and Punjab (13), along with the Union Territory of Chandigarh, will vote in this phase. Polling is also being held in the remaining 13 seats of Uttar Pradesh, including Varanasi, the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in 9 crucial seats of West Bengal that saw violent campaigns, 8 seats each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh and three Naxal-affected constituencies of Jharkhand.
Among all constituencies, the BJP is eyeing breakthrough gains in the 9 seats of West Bengal that recently saw ugly scenes of vandalising the bust of 19th century social reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in Kolkata during a rally of BJP president Amit Shah.
Following the Election Commission's decision thereafter to advance the end of campaign by one day made the battle vicious with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee matching PM Narendra Modi's electoral blitz with equal gusto.
Over 1.49 crore voters will decide the fate of 111 candidates in these nine seats that are spread across the three districts of Kolkata, South and North 24 Parganas. The constituencies include Kolkata North and Kolkata South, Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jadavpur, Diamond Harbour, Jaynagar (SC) and Mathurapur (SC).
A total of 710 companies (71,000 personnel) of central armed police forces (CAPFs) have been deployed by the Election Commission to cover 17,042 polling booths to ensure free and fair voting. Besides general election observers and expenditure observers, the Election Commission has for the first time deployed a special police observer and a special observer.
Eight seats, barring Jadavpur, will witness a four-cornered contest between the Trinamool Congress, BJP, Congress and the Left Front. The Congress has given the Jadavpur seat a miss.
In Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Modi is seeking re-election from Varanasi. The seventh phase of the polls will also decide the fate of 10 other BJP leaders, including Union Minister Manoj Sinha, who is seeking re-election from Ghazipur, and Bhojpuri actor Ravi Kishan, who is trying to reclaim the saffron party's stronghold Gorakhpur.
In Bihar, Patna Sahib seat offers an interesting clash. Here, former BJP but sitting MP Shatrughan Sinha is seeking to retain the seat for the third consecutive time on a Congress ticket against formidable challenger Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The BJP is trying hard to regain its strength in Punjab with the help of the Akali Dal against Congress that has an upper hand in Punjab after winning the last assembly elections. Observers say the BJP's chances have improved a bit because of the anger among the farmer community.