Polling began on Thursday across 91 Lok Sabha constituencies spread over 20 states and Union Territories as the first phase of the mega seven-phase electoral exercise. Curtains had come down two days ago on the hectic campaigning which witnessed star campaigner criss-crossing the poll bound States. Voting for electing Assemblies in Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Odisha (first phase) also started along with polling for Lok Sabha constituencies. In these states, voters will cast two votes each.
In 10 states and two Union Territories – Andhra Pradesh (25), Telangana (17), Arunachal Pradesh (2), Meghalaya (2), Uttarakhand (5), Mizoram (1), Nagaland (1), Sikkim (1), Lakshadweep (1), and Andaman and Nicobar Islands (1), voting is happening in all parliamentary constituencies.
A number of political bigwigs and Union Ministers are in the fray during the first phase of voting. These include Minister of State for External Affairs General (Retd) V K Singh from Ghaziabad, Culture Minister Dr Mahesh Sharma from Gautam Buddh Nagar and Minister of State for HRD Satyapal Singh from Baghpat – all forming the key constituencies in the Western Uttar Pradesh.
Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju is pitted against former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki from Arunachal West Lok Sabha seat. From Nagpur, the BJP stalwart and Union Shipping and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari will also have his electoral fate decided where polling is taking place. In the rough and tumble of Western Uttar Pradesh’s “Jatland’’, political stalwarts including Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Choudhary are in the fray from Muzaffarnagar and Baghpat constituencies respectively.
Other key Lok Sabha seats which will remain the centre of attraction are Meerut, Kairana and Bijnor. In the hilly State of Uttarakhand, former Chief Minister Harish Rawat of the Congress is trying his luck from Nainital-Udham Singh Nagar constituency. Other crucial seats in the state are Haridwar where BJP’s sitting MP Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ and Almora from where Union Minister of State Ajay Tamta is seeking re-election.
During the hectic campaigning for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party chief Amit Shah and Home Minister Rajnath Singh spearheaded the campaign and addressed a number of election rallies from the North-East to Southern States of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, for the Congress party president Rahul Gandhi was the torchbearer heightening the shrill pitch of electioneering.
Polling also started in eight out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, including Saharanpur, Kairana, Ghaziabad, Baghpat and Gautam Buddha Nagar, four – Aurangabad, Gaya, Nawada and Jamui – out of 40 seats in Bihar and two – Cooch Behar and Alipurduar – out of 42 seats in West Bengal.
Of Maharashtra’s 48 constituencies, voting in the first phase is happening in seven constituencies of Vidharbha, with the focus on Nagpur — the headquarters of the RSS — and Chandrapur, the hometown of its chief Mohan Bhagwat. In Telangana, key constituencies where voting started include Nizamabad, Nalgonda, Khammam and Hyderabad. Voting also began in five constituencies in Assam, four in Odisha, two in Jammu and Kashmir (Jammu and Baramulla) and one each of Chhattisgarh (Bastar), Manipur (Outer Manipur), and Tripura (Tripura West).