The April leg of the multi-phase Indian elections will end Wednesday on a high note, sealing the electoral fortunes of heavyweights Narendra Modi, Sonia Gandhi and Rajnath Singh.
Nearly 140 million voters will have their say in 89 seats across seven states and two Union Territories — Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu — in phase 7 of polling. Overall, 1,295 candidates are in the fray.
Of these 89 seats, the Congress had won 37 in 2009; the BJP 21; the Trinamool Congress and the Janata Dal (United) five each; the CPI(M), Shiromani Akali Dal and the Samajwadi Party four each.
After phase 7, polling will end for 438 of the total 543 Lok Sabha seats, leaving 105 to be decided in two phases in May.
Gujarat chief minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial nominee Modi will be angling for a strong showing in his state, where polling ends in one go. Despite Modi’s grip over his state, the Congress has been no pushover in the national polls.
In 2009, the Congress had won 11 of the state’s 26 Lok Sabha seats. It lost two parliamentary bypolls in 2013. The BJP will be hopeful of Modi’s drive for the top post altering the script completely in its favour. The saffron party’s patriarch, LK Advani, is contesting from Gandhinagar.
Congress president Gandhi is in fray from Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh, but a key state in this round for the party is Andhra Pradesh, where the decision to bifurcate the state for creation of Telangana has altered the poll dynamics.
Crucially, the first round of polling in Andhra Pradesh is simultaneously for the Lok Sabha (17 seats) and assembly (119 seats) — all in Telangana region.
Andhra has been paying the Congress rich electoral dividends. In 2009, the party had won 33 of the 42 seats in the state (up from the 29 it won in 2004).
Statehood for Telangana, however, has left the Congress facing an uphill task in Seemandhra (Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra). In Telangana too, Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrashekar Rao has shied away from a merger with the Congress.
In her final campaign pitch to Telangana, Gandhi appealed to voters to credit her party for staying true to statehood for the region in the face of political losses.
Uttar Pradesh will see polling for 14 seats, the third largest chunk in this phase. BJP president Singh is contesting from the prestigious Lucknow seat.
Also in fray are the saffron party’s Hindutva firebrands Uma Bharti (Jhansi) and Murli Manohar Joshi (Kanpur). The BJP faced a few uncomfortable questions after it moved Joshi, the sitting Varanasi MP, and fielded Modi from the seat.
Polling ends in one go in Punjab’s 13 seats. One of the most needling contests in the state has built up in Amritsar between BJP leader Arun Jaitley and former Punjab chief minister and Congress candidate Capt Amarinder Singh.
The Congress had won eight seats from the state in 2009.
In West Bengal, voters will exercise their franchise in nine seats including Howrah, Sreerampur and Birbhum. The BJP has fielded music composer Bappi Lahiri from Sreerampur against incumbent Trinamool MP Kalyan Banerjee.
Voting will take place in the backdrop of a bitter war of words between the BJP and Trinamool.
In Bihar, the big contest is in Madhepura, which is among the seven seats going to polls. Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav is in the fray from Madhepura.
Importantly, this will be the first real poll test for the ruling JD(U), more specifically chief minister Nitish Kumar, after snapping ties with the BJP.
In Jammu and Kashmir, polling will be held for the key Srinagar seat featuring Union minister and National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, father of chief minister Omar Abdullah.
A big fight has erupted between the Abdullahs and Modi in the run-up to voting day over secularism and Article 370 (which grants special status to the state) of the Constitution. The BJP’s stated position is it will scrap Article 370 if it comes to power.
The fight in Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu is for one seat each. Both seats are with the BJP in the outgoing Lok Sabha.
Here's a map for the constituencies going to polls on Wednesday. On searching, you will get details of all parties fighting from a constituency and key candidates there: