Campaigning ends in 11 states, one union territory
Campaigning for the Lok Sabha election ended Tuesday across 11 states and one union territory where 179 million voters are eligible to decide the political fate of over 2,000 candidates in 117 seats.
This is the seventh round of the 10-phase polls across the subcontinental size country, which began April 7 and culminates May 12. The results will be out May 16, paving way for a new government.
Balloting will be held Thursday for six seats in Assam, seven in Bihar, seven in Chhattisgarh, one in Jammu and Kashmir, four in Jharkhand, 10 in Madhya Pradesh, 19 in Maharashtra, five in Rajasthan, 39 in Tamil Nadu, 12 in Uttar Pradesh, six in West Bengal and one in Puducherry.
It will be third and final phase of voting in Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
A total electorate of 179,084,206 gets to vote across the length and breadth of the country - right from Jammu and Kashmir to Tamil Nadu and from Assam to Maharashtra.
The maximum 53,752,682 voters are in Tamil Nadu and the least 901,357 in Puducherry.
The fate of a total of 2,095 candidates across the country will be sealed in the Electronic Voting Machines during this round.
A maximum 846 nominees are in the fray in Tamil Nadu and just a dozen in Jammu and Kashmir's only cosntituency Anantnag where opposition Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti is locked in a bitter electoral battle with ruling National Conference candidate Mehboob Beg.
Nurturing national ambitions, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa is going alone in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
For the DMK, which too is going it alone this time, a good performance will help it grab national attention again.
The lone Puducherry seat too is witnessing a keen contest.
In Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who harbours prime ministerial ambitions, and daughter-in-law Dimple Yadav are both seeking re-election, respectively, from in Mainpuri and Kannauj cosntituencies.
Yesteryear's "Dream Girl" Hema Malini is slugging it out on a BJP ticket in Mathura against Rashtriya Lok Dal's sitting MP Jayant Chowdhary, son of union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh.
Amar Singh, one-time confidant of Mulayam Singh and now an RLD candidate, is contesting from Fatehpur Sikri while union External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid is fighting again from Farrukhabad.
The candidates in Rajasthan include India's former cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin, union ministers Namonarain Meena and Jitendra Singh of the Congress, former DGP Harish Meena and Mahant Chandnath of the BJP, and Kirodi Lal Meena of the National People's Party.
In Assam, the main contestants are Ramen Deka and Bijoya Chakraborty (BJP), Manas Bora (Congress), Badaruddin Ajmal (All India United Democratic Front), Chandan Brahma (Bodoland People's Front), Birendra Prasad Baishya (Asom Gana Parishad), and former Meghalaya governor R.S. Mooshahary (Trinamool Congress).
In Bihar where the voting has been staggered, balloting takes place in Kishanganj, Purnea, Araria, Katihar, Supaul, Bhagalpur and Banka -- all of them having sizeable Muslim population.
The BJP has been winning most of the Seemanchal seats, except Kishanganj for nearly two decades.
In Kishanganj, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) candidate Akhtarul Iman declared he won't contest, so the minority votes go en bloc to Congress's Asrarul Haque.
Chhattisgarh's political bigwigs in the poll fray include six-time BJP MP Ramesh Bais, Congress leader and union minister of state Charandas Mahant and Karuna Shukla, niece of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
In Bilaspur, the Congress has fielded Shukla, who was with the BJP for about 25 years.
Two former chief ministers of Jharkhand -- Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P) president Babulal Marandi and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief Shibu Soren -- have locked horns in Dumka.
In Madhya Pradesh, Vidisha's sitting MP and BJP's leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj is pitted against Congress candidate Lakshman Singh, the younger brother of Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh.
The big names in the race in Maharashtra include union Minister of State for Shipping Milind Deora, former union minister and AICC general secretary Gurudas Kamat, former journalist Sanjay Nirupam, Priya Dutt (all from the Congress in Mumbai), besides the Nationalist Congress Party's Chhagan Bhujbal in Nashik and Medha Patkar in Mumbai North-East.
In West Bengal, President Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit is on a sticky wicket at Murshidabad district's Jangipur, which the Congress stalwart held until he was elevated to presidency.
Union minister and sitting MP Deepa Dasmunsi is being challenged by Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi's brother Satya Ranjan of the Trinamool in Dinajpur's Raiganj.- IANS