Final phase of Lok Sabha battle today

The seven-phase poll process for electing the 17th Lok Sabha will come to an end with voting in 59 parliamentary constituencies (PCs) on Sunday. More than two months of official campaigning for the 2019 general elections ended on Friday. The Election Commission of India (ECI) had announced the schedule on March 10.

Three states — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal — had PCs scheduled for polling in each of the seven phases in the elections. In addition to these states, Sunday’s polling will include all PCs in the northern states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Three PCs in Jharkhand are also scheduled to vote.

Of the 59 PCs where voting will take place, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won 33 in the 2014 elections. Its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had won an additional seven seats. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had won just five of these PCs.

Varanasi, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the BJP’s candidate, will be voting in Sunday’s phase. Gorakhpur, a seat that was held by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath for a long time, and which the BJP lost in a by-poll, will also vote. West Bengal, which has nine PCs voting in the final phase, has seen large-scale poll-related violence in these elections. The ECI cited this as a reason to cut short the campaign period in the state by a day. To be sure, opposition parties have questioned the impartiality of the ECI over the manner in which this decision was taken.

Among the northern states, the BJP is running the government in Himachal Pradesh, while the Congress is in power in Punjab. In Madhya Pradesh, eight PCs in the agriculturally prosperous Malwa region are voting in the last phase. Considered to be a BJP stronghold, it has seen rural unrest and agitations against the previous BJP government in the state.

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