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Let the games begin

World's biggest democratic exercise will get underway on Thursday, when 124 Lok Sabha constituencies spread over 17 states will go to the polls in the first of the five-phase elections spanning over a month to elect 543 members. Nagendar Sharma reports.

delhi Updated: Apr 16, 2009 02:23 IST
Nagendar Sharma

World's biggest democratic exercise will get underway on Thursday, when 124 Lok Sabha constituencies spread over 17 states will go to the polls in the first of the five-phase elections spanning over a month to elect 543 members. The verdict will be out on May 16.

Voting for all the 20 Kerala seats and Chhattisgarh’s 11 will be a one-day affair. The Left Front, which won 19 of the 20 seats in the southern state, helping it clock a record tally of 61 seats in 2004, is facing rough weather. No party has managed two consecutive wins in recent times. The Left would have to defy history for a repeat performance.

Naxal-hit Chhattisgarh gave the BJP 10 seats the last time. Having won the assembly polls for the second time four months ago, the party would require a spectacular performance to retain its seats.

In the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, polling will be held for 22 Lok Sabha seats and corresponding assembly seats in the Telengana region. The ruling Congress, which along with the Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and the Left parties swept the 17 seats in the Telengana belt last time, is fighting alone. This time, the TRS and the Left have joined hands with the Congress rival, the Telugu Desam Party. Adding star power to the contest is Telugu film star Chiranjeevi, who has floated his own party.

On the east coast, an interesting battle is on the cards for 10 seats of Orissa, where the impact of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s decision to sever alliance with the BJP would be gauged.

Thirteen seats in Maharashtra’s Vidharba region will vote on Thursday. The ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance is banking on the populist farm loan waiver to win back the region lost to the BJP-Shiv Sena combine the last time. It won 12 of the 13 seats, which appears a difficult feat to repeat.

In Uttar Pradesh, mafia dons’ switch of allegiance from the Samajwadi Party to the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party appears to have given an edge to Mayawati’s party in the 16 Poorvanchal seats. The region is crucial for her prime ministerial ambitions.

It’s a battle for survival for the showman of Indian politics, Railways Minister Lalu Prasad in Bihar. He is in fray from Saran, which along with 12 seats goes to the polls on Thursday.