The single largest round of voting will unfold across 12 states on Thursday, setting the stage for a final push from parties for the business end of the world’s largest elections.
More than 195 million voters will have their say in 121 seats and decide the electoral fortunes of the
old guard, some tipped to be generation next leaders and many high-profile debutants. Overall, 1,762 candidates are in the fray.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won 44 of these seats in 2009 and the Congress 37.
Karnataka, which gave the BJP its first government in the south, will see voting for all its 28 seats in one go.
After losing power to the Congress in the state, but the BJP has brought back former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa and Bellary star B Sreeramulu after a brief spells of separation in pursuit of a strong showing nationally.
Former IT czar Nandan Nilekani’s debut in Bangalore South has also triggered pan-Indian interest.
The next biggest tranche of seats, 20, will be decided in Rajasthan. The BJP swept the assembly polls last year and pollsters see it on course for a rousing performance.
The saffron party is aiming for a sweep, but the Congress has put young turk Sachin Pilot in charge of its challenge and is keeping a close watch on seats where the ruling party is facing dissent over selection of candidates.
The journey of Jaswant Singh, expelled by the BJP for deciding to contest as an independent from Barmer, is one of the most followed from the state along with Olympic silver-medallist shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s electoral debut.
Maharashtra will see voting in 19 seats across the arid, backward region of Marathwada, the sugar-rich belt in the western part of the state and a part of coastal Konkan.
This round has an interesting mix of candidates. Old guard such as Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Ashok Chavan and Gopinath Munde are in the fray along with second-generation leaders such as Supriya Sule and Nilesh Narayan Rane.
In Uttar Pradesh, voting will be held in 11 constituencies. Former union minister and BJP candidate Maneka Gandhi is trying her luck for the seventh time in a Lok Sabha contest, from Pilibhit.
In Odisha, chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s apparently unshakable credentials will be tested in polling for 11 seats including capital Bhubaneswar.
In Madhya Pradesh, polling will be held for 10 seats including capital Bhopal and Gwalior. The ruling BJP has been on a winning streak in the state polls, but the Congress and its key candidate, Jyotiraditya Scindia, will be hoping to turn the tables. Poll projections, however, are not too promising for the Congress.
In Bihar, voting will be for 7 seats. The political dynamics of Bihar changed following the split between the chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) and the BJP. Another turning point came after Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan joined hands with the BJP.
Pollsters see the BJP gaining at JD(U)’s expense in the national polls even though Nitish’s ratings are said to be high in his state.
Actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha, former union home secretary RK Singh and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad's daughter Misa Bharti are among the big names in fray.
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Polling gets off the ground in West Bengal, covering four constituencies including Darjeeling from where football star Bhaichung Bhutia is the Trinamool Congress candidate.
In Maoist-hit Chhattisgarh, three seats go to polls. Veteran Congress leader Ajit Jogi is contesting from Mahasamund, while chief minister Raman Singh's son Abhishek Singh is making his electoral debut in Rajnandgaon.
In Jharkhand, another state affected by Maoist violence, polling will be held for six seats including capital Ranchi and steel hub Jamshedpur.
In Jammu and Kashmir, Udhampur goes to polls. Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is contesting from the seat.
In Manipur, voting for the Inner Manipur seat will complete the polling process in the state. Congress holds both seats in the state.
Here's a map for the constituencies going to polls on Thursday. On searching, you will get details of all parties fighting from a constituency and key candiates there:
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