The first big test of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s popularity, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s ability to beat back anti-incumbency and AAP’s hold on Delhi is Thursday when 91 seats across India go to the polls in the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections.
As many as 10-crore voters in 14 states and two union territories, including some Maoist-affected areas, will vote in the biggest round of polling, so far. Five years ago, the Congress, which retained power at the Centre, won almost half (45) of these 91 seats. The BJP managed only 16.
Seven union ministers, including Kapil Sibal, Kamal Nath and Ajit Singh; former army chief VK Singh and film stars Nagma and Gul Panag are among the 1,481 candidates in round 3. The Northeast voted in the first two rounds, on Monday and Wednesday, of the nine-phase polls.
Nearly 1.6 crore voters, including 73 lakh women, will seal the fate of 251 candidates for the 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana. Nearly 60 companies of central paramilitary forces and 44,000 state policemen and Home Guards are on duty to ensure peace. The EVMs are tuned for the polling at 16,129 stations.
The 10 seats in Haryana will witness four-cornered contests among candidates of the ruling Congress, BJP-HJC combine, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). There are 230 nominees in all.
Nearly 6-lakh voters will also seal the fate of 17 candidates for the lone Lok Sabha seat from the union territory of Chandigarh. Main contestants include sitting MP and four-time winner Pawan Kumar Bansal of the Congress; Bollywood actresses Kirron Kher (BJP) and Gul Panang (AAP); and Jannat Jahan (BSP).
In Haryana Congress’ Naveen Jindal, Arvind Sharma and Avtar Singh Bhadana seek third term from Kurukshetra, Karnal and Faridabad, respectively. Congress nominee from 2009, Rao Inderjit Singh, attempts the same feat but this time as nominee of the saffron party, the BJP. Congress’ Deepender Hooda ( Rohtak), Shruti Choudhry (Bhiwani-Mahendergarh) and Ashok Tanwar (Sirsa); besides HJC chief Kuldeep Bishnoi go for the second successive term. From Sonipat, Congress has fielded Gohana MLA Jagbir Malik after sitting MP Jitender Malik opted out of the race.
BJP has fielded former MP RL Kataria from Ambala (SC) and AAP’s Yogendra Yadav is among those in the fray from Gurgaon. Seven namesakes of Bishnoi are among 44 candidates in Hisar.
At least 16 each are contesting from Ambala ( SC) and Rohtak, besides 20 from Sirsa (SC), 24 from Gurgaon, 25 from Kurukshetra, 26 each from Karnal and Sonipat; and 27 each from Bhiwani-Mahendergarh and Faridabad. Of the 10 Lok Sabha seats, the Congress has nine MPs.
Delhi will vote for all its seven seats, while the Jammu-Poonch seat will also go to the polls.