National security, agrarian distress and 1984 riots share centre stage as campaign for final phase poll ends

Why can’t the general elections be held in any normal climate instead in blistering summer !

National security, agrarian distress and 1984 riots shared centre stage when the curtain was drawn on Friday evening on the campaign for seventh and final phase of Lok Sabha elections, covering 59 constituencies across seven states.

There are in all 918 candidates before a 10 crore electorate at 1.1 lakh polling stations.

Polling will be conducted on 13 each in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, nine of West Bengal, eight each of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, all four of Himachal Pradesh, three of Jharkhand and lone seat of the union territory of Chandigarh.

There are 2.4 crore voters in Uttar Pradesh, 2.08 crore in Punjab. The least are in Chandigarh — 6.19 lakh.

The highest number of candidates are from Punjab–278, followed by 170 in Bengal. Jharkhand has 42 candidates in contention.

On the last day of campaigning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asserted in a press conference in New Delhi that the Bharatiya Janata Party would retain power at the Centre with full majority of its own. At the same news conference, BJP president Amit Shah, gave a detailed report card of the performance of the National Democratic Alliance dispensation.

The Prime Minister is seeking re-election from Varanasi.

Veteran Hindi cinema actress Kirron Kher is in the contest on the BJP ticket from Chandigarh. In Punjab’s Gurdaspur, a new entrant to politics, Bollywood actor Sunny Deol, is in fray from saffron side, in Himachal Pradesh’s Hamirpur Union minister Anurag Thakur is seeking re-election and in Patna Sahib veteran actor Shatrughan Sinha, who recently let the BJP to join Congress, will take on Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.


The 13 Lok Sabha seats of Poorvanchal of Uttar Pradesh, including the city of Baba Vishwanath, saw a high decibel campaign.

A total of 167 candidates are in the race from Maharajganj, Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, Deoria, Basgaon, Ghosi, Salempur, Ballia, Ghazipur, Chandauli, Varanasi, Mirzapur and Robertsganj.

Polling would be held May 19, Sunday from 7 am to 6 pm except for three assembly segments –Robertsganj, Dudhi and Chakia of the Robertsganj Lok Sabha seat where the polling will end at 4 pm.

Bypoll to Agra (north) assembly seat would also take place simultaneously.

The fate of Union minister Manoj Sinha (Ghazipur), Apna Dal (Sonelal) founder Anupriya Patel (Mirzapur), UP BJP president Dr Mahendra Nath Pandey (Chandauli), Bhojpuri actor and BJP candidate Ravi Kishan (Gorakhpur) will be decided in this phase.

Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath campaigned in almost all the 13 constituencies.

Congress general secretary for Uttar Pradesh (East) Priyanka Gandhi Vadra took out a roadshow in Varanasi on Wednesday in support of party candidate Ajay Rai while the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance held a joint rally of BSP chief Mayawati and SP president Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday in support of the SP candidate Shalini Yadav.

Modi addressed three rallies in Mau, Chandauli and Mirzapur.

The Congress, too, pushed its campaign in the last moments when on Friday, Gandhi Vadra held roadshows in Mirzapur and Kushingar besides addressing a meeting in Maharajganj on Thursday. Congress president Rahul Gandhi also addressed a meeting in Kushingar on Thursday.

Issues in Punjab

The election campaign in Punjab was dominated by religious issues. The ruling Indian National Congress accused erstwhile Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party government for failing to investigate alleged sacrilege episodes while the opposition took a jibe against INC for Congress Overseas President Sam Pitroda’s remark—“Hua toh hua” for 1984 riots. Drug menace and farmers’ distress, too, found space.

The election campaign in Punjab took speed after talks between Indian National Congress and Aam Adami Party for alliance, but both the parties decided to contest separately.

A keen battle will be seen Gurdaspur. Veteran actor late Vinod Khanna won this seat for the BJP five years ago. But after his demise in 2017, it was clinched by Congress’ Sunil Jakhar in the by-election.

Now, the BJP has fielded Deol to take on Jakhar. Deol, often wearing a turban in his movies, is popular among Punjabis.

Another big battle will be seen in Bhatinda, where Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, wife of Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal, is once more in the contest. INC has fielded Indian Youth Congress president and MLA Raja Warring.

Hardline outfit Dal Khalsa on Friday joined issue with Union home Minister Rajnath Singh for his declaration to make the sedition law stricter in case the Bharatiya Janata Party retains power.

Polling would be held in Amritsar, Anandpur Sahib, Bathinda, Faridkot, Fatehgarh Sahib, Fazilka, Firozpur,Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Khadoor Sahib, Ludhiana, Patiala, Phillaur Ropar, Sangrur and Tarn Taran. A total of 278 candidates are in fray.

In 2014, BJP’s Kirron Kher defeated AAP candidate Gul Panag and Congress nominee Pawan Kumar Bansal in Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat. From 1999 to 2014, Bansal, a former Union minister, had represented this constituency . Now, Bansal is taking on Kher again while AAP has fielded Harmohan Dhawan.

Hindi heartland

All eyes are set on Patna Sahib, where actor-politician Sinha is now contesting on INC ticket. In 2009 and 2014, Sinha had won this seat for BJP twice. This time, BJP has fielded Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad against him.

Another keen battle will be in Sasaram, where Congress candidate and former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar is in the fray. BJP has fielded Chhedi Paswan against her.

The eight seats of Bihar–Nalanda, Patna Sahib, Pataliputra, Arrah, Buxar, Sasaram, Karakat and Jahanabad—are going to polls. Total number of candidates in these eight constituencies is 157 including 20 female candidates. Nalanda constituency has maximum number of 35 candidates, Ara minimum 11 nominees.

There are 14 candidates in fray from Rajmahal (ST), 15 from Dumka (ST) and 13 candidates from Godda. In Dumka, eight-time MP and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) president Shibu Soren is contesting against Sunil Soren of BJP.

Polling will take place on May 19, Sunday in Dewas, Ujjain, Mandsaur, Ratlam, Dhar, Indore, Khargone and Khandwa parliamentary constituencies of Madhya Pradesh.

Meenakshi Natarajan is trying her luck again from Mandsaur from INC ticket after being defeated five years ago. Farm loan dominated the election campaign, with both Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party playing a blame game on each other for doing nothing for farmers.

Eighty-two candidates are in the fray in the eight seats, comprising six in Dewas, nine in Ujjain, 13 in Mandsaur, nine in Ratlam, seven in Dhar, 20 in Indore, seven in Khargone and 11 in Khandwa.

HP scene 

Campaign for all four Lok Sabha seats — Shimla (SC), Mandi, Hamirpur and Kangra—came to an end on Friday. Modi addressed rallies in Mandi and Solan while BJP president Amit Shah held three meetings on a single day. Congress president Rahul Gandhi campaigned in the state even on the last day of electioneering. He addressed a rally in Solan on Friday.

A direct contest is expected between the ruling BJP and the Congress.

Since 2008, BJP’s Anurag Thakur has held Hamirpur seat. The constituency was represented by his father and former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal multiple times.  The saffron party has fielded Anurag Thakur for this seat again. He is being challenged by Congress’ Ram Lal Thakur. (UNI)