Stage set for polling in 91 LS seats, 4 Assemblies
The stage is set for polling in 91 Lok Sabha constituencies across 20 states and Union Territories on Thursday in the first of seven-phased polls to elect a new government at the Centre.
Voting for Assembly polls will also be held in Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and the first phase of Odisha.
People will vote for all parliamentary constituencies in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Uttarakhand, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Telangana.
Constituencies in Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal will also go to the polls in the first phase.
The first phase will see interesting battles in all the states going to the polls and will decide electoral fate of sitting Chief Ministers, several Union Ministers and some senior leaders from different parties.
In Andhra Pradesh, voters will cast two votes each to elect 25 MPs and 175-member Assembly while in Telangana the polling will be held only for the 17 Lok Sabha seats. The state has gone for early Assembly polls last year.
Five seats of Uttarakhand, two each of Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Meghalaya and one each of Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Andaman and Nicobar as well as Lakshadweep will go to the polls on April 11.
The first phase will also cover Uttar Pradesh's eight out of 80 Lok Sabha seats, four out of 40 seats of Bihar and two out of 42 seats of West Bengal.
In Uttar Pradesh, key constituencies include Saharanpur, Kairana, Ghaziabad, Baghpat and Gautam Buddha Nagar. Three Union Ministers -- Gen V.K. Singh (Ghaziabad), Satyapal Singh (Baghpat) and Mahesh Sharma (Gautam Buddha Nagar) are in the fray as is Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Chaudhary.
In Telangana, Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao's daughter K. Kavihta is seeking re-election from Nizamabad, where 178 farmers who entered the fray to highlight their problems including lack of remunerative prices for their produce. Kavitha is locked in a three-cornered contest with Congress' Madhu Yaskhi Goud and BJP's D. Arvind.
State Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy (Nalgonda), former Union Minister and senior Congress leader Renuka Chowdary (Khammam), All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslim'en's chief Asaduddin Owaisi (Hyderabad) are among the other key candidates in Telangana.
Congress party's Konda Vishweshwar Reddy, who is the richest candidate in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh with declared family assets of Rs 895 crore, is seeking re-election from Chevella.
In Andhra Pradesh, Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) President N. Chandrababu Naidu, YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy and Jana Sena leader and actor Pawan Kalyan are among the key contestants in Assembly elections.
Naidu is seeking re-election from Kuppam in his native Chittoor district, while Jagan is contesting once again from Pulivendula, his family stronghold in Kadapa district.
Naidu's son Nara Lokesh is making his electoral debut, contesting for Assembly from Mangalagiri in capital region of Amaravati.
Pawan Kalyan is contesting from two Assembly constituencies -- Bhimavaram and Gajuwaka. State Congress chief Raghuveera Reddy is contesting from Kalyandurg Assembly constituency.
Chandrababu Naidu's brother-in-law and actor N. Balakrishna is seeking re-election from Hindupur Assembly constituency as the TDP candidate.
Balakrishna's sister and former Union Minister D. Purandeswari is contesting from Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha constituency on BJP ticket. Balakrishna's son-in-law M. Bharat is contesting for the same seat as TDP candidate while Jana Sena has fielded former CBI joint director V.V. Lakshminarayana.
Former Union Ministers Kishore Chandra Deo, Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Kotla Surya Prakash Reddy (all TDP), M.M. Pallam Raju and J.D. Seelam (Congress), state BJP chief Kanna Lakshminarayana are among other key Lok Sabha candidates in the state.
In Uttarakhand, two former Chief Ministers are in the fray -- Harish Rawat from Nainital-Udhamsingh Nagar and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank from Haridwar. Congress has fielded Manish Khanduri, son of senior BJP leader Maj Gen B.C. Khanduri from Pauri.
Of Maharashtra's 48 constituencies, voitng wilh be held in seven constituencies of Vidharbha, with the focus on Nagpur -- the headquarters of the RSS -- and Chandrapur, the hometown of Mohan Bhagwat, where Nitin Gadkari, who brought the Metro to Nagpur and Ahir will be seeking another term on his development work in the area.
In Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir, the main contest is between Mohammad Akbar Lone of the National Conference, Abdul Qayoom Wani of the Peoples Democratic Party and former Inspector General of Police Raja Aijaz Ali of People's Conference. While the main contest in Jammu would be between Jugal Kishore Sharma of BJP and Raman Bhalla of Congress. -IANS