Star cast takes the stage in Act II
The second and the biggest round of voting on Thursday for 140 Lok Sabha seats spread across 12 states and Union Territories holds the key to power for Congress and BJP, the two major contenders their respective coalitions in a fierce battle to capture the Delhi throne, reports Nagendar Sharma.delhi Updated: Apr 23, 2009 00:57 IST
The second and the biggest round of voting on Thursday for 140 Lok Sabha seats spread across 12 states and Union Territories holds the key to power for Congress and BJP, the two major contenders their respective coalitions in a fierce battle to capture the Delhi throne.
Among those whose fate will be decided are Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and five Union ministers. A total of 2,041 candidates are trying their luck in Thursday’s voting.
The sudden spurt in Naxal violence poses a challenge to the authorities to conduct a peaceful election. This round includes Naxal-hit states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Orrisa.
The steadily rising election fever will reach its peak in the states that gave a rich harvest to the two main parties in 2004.
The ruling Congress has a tough task of repeating its spectacular 2004 performance in Andhra Pradesh and Assam. It had 19 of the 20 seats in Andhra and six of Assam’s 11. In Maharashtra, the Congress and its ally NCP are hoping to improve their tally in the 25 seats.
It’s an equally tough task for the BJP, which faces a tall order of retaining 11 of 13 seats it had won in Madhya Pradesh last time. In Karnataka, of the 17 seats for which voting takes place in this round, the BJP had won nine and Congress eight.
Another crucial state for the BJP is Orissa, where it had contested the last election in an alliance with the BJD. The alliance had swept the state, winning 18 of the 21 seats. The situation has changed since with the BJD having dumped its saffron ally. Voting for 11 seats takes place in this round.
Estranged Congress allies Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan are making a desperate bid to stay afloat in the 13 seats in Bihar, majority of which they had won in an alliance with the Congress in 2004.
They have dumped the Congress this time, which is playing a spoiler for the duo, but the major challenge is from Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), which appears to be on a strong wicket.
The eight seats in neighbouring Jharkhand, where also the UPA has split on the lines of Bihar, is witnessing a multi-cornered contest on all the seats.
Seventeen seats in central Uttar Pradesh will also be decided in this round, where Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party had done particularly well last time and won nine seats. This time it is facing a stiff challenge from the ruling BSP, the Congress and the BJP are also putting up a fight in some seats.