Nearly nine crore voters will decide the fate of 674 candidates, including political bigwigs Rajnath Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Smriti Irani, in the fifth phase of polling on Monday in 51 Lok Sabha constituencies in seven states.
Around 2.47 crore people are eligible to vote in Dhaurahra, Sitapur, Mohanlalganj (SC), Lucknow, Banda, Fatehpur, Kaushambi (SC), Barabanki (SC), Faizabad, Bahraich (SC), Kaiserganj, Amethi, Raebareli and Gonda constituencies where 182 candidates are in the contest.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is seeking re-election from Lucknow, while his colleague at the Centre Smriti Irani is again taking on Rahul Gandhi in Amethi and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi is fighting polls against her own old guard Dinesh Pratap Singh in Raebareli.
Former Union minister Jitin Prasada, who was once said to take on Singh from the state capital, will contest from Dhaurahra Lok Sabha seat against BJP’s Rekha Verma who is the sitting MP. The SP-BSP alliance has fielded Arshad Ahmad Siddiqui from Dhaurahra making the contest triangular.
Lucknow, the state’s capital, has been with the BJP since 1991 when former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee won from this seat. The SP-BSP alliance has fielded Poonam Sinha, wife of Shatrughan Sinha, from this seat, while Congress has fielded Acharya Pramod Krishnam. However, looking back at the results, Singh still holds the pole position from this seat.
Meanwhile, an interesting contest is being played out in the Mohanlalganj Lok Sahha seat of Lucknow where former BSP leader and close aide of Kanshi Ram, RK Chaudhary, is in fray against CL Verma, who is considered close to party supremo Mayawati. While Chaudhary is the Congress candidate here, BJP’s Kaushal Kishor, who is said to have a good hold among members of the Pasi community, is seeking a re-election.
Another watched out contest will be in Barabanki (reserve) seat where senior Congress leader PL Punia’s son Tanuj is fighting against BJP’s Upendra Rawat and SP’s Ram Sagar Rawat.
The SP candidate, Ram Sagar Rawat, has been former MP from Barabanki and also enjoys support from BSP cadre this time. Meanwhile, BJP has changed its sitting MP Priyanka Rawat and has fielded Upendra Rawat, inviting opposition from the camp of the former.
Congress’s Tanuj Punia is putting up a strong fight as his father PL Punia has been a former MP and has been a known local face.
In the neighbouring constituency, Kaiserganj, it is strongman Brajbhushan Sharan Singh who is contesting on BJP ticket against SP-BSP alliance candidate Chandradev Ram Yadav.
The two seats of Amethi and Raebareli, which are considered as the Congress bastions, were the only two seats that Congress had won in the state even after the Modi wave in 2014. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is contesting from Amethi against BJP’s Smriti Irani, who has been quite active in the constituency even after losing the elections in 2014.
In Raebareli Lok Sabha seat, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is contesting against her old guard and former Congress MLC Dinesh Pratap Singh.
The Sitapur parliamentary constituency, which is again a reserve seat, will witness a close contest between BJP candidate Rajesh Verma and SP-BSP alliance candidate Nakul Dubey. Former BSP MP Kaiser Jahan might also pose challenge to Nakul Dubey as she is contesting on a Congress ticket from Sitapur.
In Gonda, Kirtivardhan Singh, the three time MP from Gonda, is contesting on a BJP ticket this time, earlier Singh had won the seat twice on Samajwadi Party ticket. However, he has never won the seat consecutively. This time it will be a challenge for him to break the jinx. The SP-BSP alliance has fielded Vinod Kumar Singh alias Pandit Singh from Gonda seat, making the contest more interesting.
The Bahraich parliamentary seat will see turncoat Savitri Bai Phule, who switched sides from BJP to Congress after being denied ticket this time, contesting against Akshayvar Lal Gaud of BJP and SP-BSP alliance’s Shabbir Balmiki, who is a local face and is said to have good influence over backward and Muslim voters in the constituency.
On Kaushambhi parliamentary seat, BJP has fielded sitting MP Vinod Sonkar, while Congress has fielded Girish Chandra Pasi and the SP-BSP alliance has fielded Indrajit Saroj. Another important candidate on this seat is Shailendra Kumar who has been fielded from Jansatta Dal, the political party of Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya who is said to have good influence on the voters of this region.
Meanwhile, another seat, which is in focus of the entire country, is the Faizabad parliamentary seat that houses the disputed site of Ram Janmabhoomi and Babri Masjid. At present, BJP’s Lallu Singh is the MP from Faizabad and he will be contesting against senior Congress leader Nirmal Khattri and SP-BSP alliance candidate Anand Sen Yadav.
The Banda parliamentary seat will be witnessing a triangular contest as Congress has fielded Bal Kumar Patel, brother of dacoit Dadua from this seat. Patel will be putting up a fight against BJP’s Shyamacharan Gupta and SP-BSP alliance candidate RK Patel.
The stakes are high for the ruling BJP and its allies as it had swept 40 of phase five seats in 2014, leaving just two for the Congress and the rest for other opposition parties such as the Trinamool Congress (seven).
Voting will take place in 13 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 12 in Rajasthan, seven seats each in West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, five in Bihar and four in Jharkhand. In Jammu and Kashmir, polling will take place in Ladakh constituency and Pulwama and Shopian districts of Anantnag seat.
The Election Commission has set up 94,000 polling stations/booths and made elaborate security arrangements. In the fifth and smallest phase, total 8.75 crore voters will decide the fate of 674 candidates. With this phase, election will be over in 424 seats and polling in the remaining 118 seats will be held on May 12 and 19.