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Sonia Gandhi, LK Advani's fate to be decided today

The world's biggest electoral exercise enters a decisive stage today with voting for 107 Lok Sabha seats in the third phase of polling. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani and former PM HD Deve Gowda are among the 1,567 candidates whose electoral fate will be sealed in ballot boxes in this phase, report Srinand Jha and Nagendar Sharma.States/ UTs going to polls| See graphics

india Updated: Apr 30, 2009 02:10 IST

The world's biggest electoral exercise enters a decisive stage on Thursday with voting for 107 Lok Sabha seats in the third phase of polling. By the end of the day, two-thirds of 714 million Indian voters spread across nine states and two union territories would have cast their vote.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate LK Advani and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda are among the 1,567 candidates whose electoral fate will be sealed in ballot boxes in this phase.

Stakes are high for both national parties. The phase will account for 372 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. After Thursday, voting on just 171 seats will remain during two phases on May 7 and May 13 respectively.

Of the 107 seats in this phase, the BJP is defending 43 against 25 of the Congress. A 14.40 crore-strong electorate will vote on Thursday. Gujarat’s 26 parliamentary seats go to the polls, besides 11 and 16 in Karnataka and MP respectively. Voting will also take place in 10 constituencies in Maharashtra, 14 in West Bengal, 11 in Bihar and 15 in UP. Also going to the polls are Dadra and Nagar Haveli (one), Daman & Diu (one), Sikkim (one) and Jammu & Kashmir (one).

Voting in the remaining two phases is in states not considered BJP strongholds.

In Gujarat, the BJP is riding high on the popularity of Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The party is also seeking to capitalise on its prime ministerial candidate, LK Advani, contesting from Gandhinagar.

In 2004, the BJP had won 14 seats from the state, while the opposition Congress had surprised pollsters by winning 12. This was the best Congress performance in a decade.

In West Bengal, reformist Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee faces an acid test, with voting scheduled in 14 of the state’s 42 seats. Of the 14 seats, the Left has a challenge to retain 11, while the Congress is defending just the three it won last time.

In Madhya Pradesh, besides the Guna and Ratlam constituencies (from where Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kanti Lal Bhuria respectively are the Congress candidates), the constituencies going to poll in this phase are considered BJP strongholds.

The Karnataka battle promises to be an interesting one as well. The 11 seats in this phase include Shimoga where warhorse S Bangarappa of the Congress is facing BS Yedurappa’s son BY Raghvendra.

In Bihar, JD (U) President Sharad Yadav is contesting the Madhepura seat, while BJP’s Shah Nawaz Hussain is the candidate from Bhagalpur.