A combination picture of the key candidates in the fray for the phase 8 of the LS polls. (Agency Photo)
BJP PM nominee Narendra Modi with party's Asansol candidate and Bollywood singer Babul Supriyo in West Bengal. (AFP Photo)
TMC candidate Moon Moon Sen with party leaders during an election meeting in Purulia. (PTI Photo)
Narendra Modi with party candidate Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' during a poll campaign rally in Roorkee. (PTI Photo)
BJP leader BC Khanduri addresses an election rally in Pauri, Uttarakhand. (PTI Photo)
Congress candidate Saket Bahuguna during an election campaign in Dehradun. (PTI Photo)
Congress candidates Nagma and Beni Prasad Verma during an election campaign in Pilibhit. (PTI Photo)
BSP's Keshri Devi Patel files her nomination papers for Lok Sabha polls in Allahabad. (PTI Photo)
Congress candidate from Phulpur Mohammad Kaif meets local cricketers during his poll campaign in Allahabad. (PTI Photo)
BJP candidate Varun Gandhi on his way to file his nomination papers in Sultanpur. (PTI Photo)
The Rahul Gandhi versus Smriti Irani versus Kumar Vishwas contest in Amethi is among the high-decibel fights for 64 seats that will play out on Wednesday in the eighth and penultimate round of the Lok Sabha elections.
The other big story of this phase will emerge from Seemandhra (coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema) region following to the decision to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh for creation of Telangana state.
More than 95 million voters will have their say across seven states and decide the electoral fortunes of 897 candidates in the fray.
Of these 64 seats, the Congress had won 34 in 2009; the Bahujan Samaj Party 5; the Bharatiya Janata Party, CPI(M), Janata Dal (United) and the Telugu Desam Party 4 each; and the Samajwadi Party 3.
The political dynamics, however, have changed in Seemandhra region, which paid rich dividends to the Congress in 2004 and 2009, following the decision to create Telangana.
Political observers do not rate the party’s chances highly either in Telangana, where elections for 17 seats were held on April 30, or in Seemandhra, where polling will be held for 25 seats.
The assembly polls are being held simultaneously and votes will be cast for 175 constituencies. The stakes are high for YS Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress. The BJP will be hopeful of a strong showing in partnership with N Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP.
After this phase, polling for 502 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats will be completed.
After Andhra Pradesh, the next biggest chunk of Lok Sabha seats up for grabs is in eastern Uttar Pradesh (15).
BJP’s Varun Gandhi, cricketer Mohammad Kaif are among the big names in the fray.
Most experts have viewed UP as a three-cornered contest between the BJP, SP and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The Congress will be hoping to prove all such views wrong. It had won 21 of the state’s 80 seats (the highest among states) in 2009.
In Bihar, voting will be held in 7 seats. Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, who joined hands with the BJP, is contesting from Hajipur.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad’s comeback is among the big talking points in Bihar. His wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi is in the fray in Saran, where the BJP has fielded Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
In West Bengal, actor Moon Moon Sen, playback singer Babul Supriyo are in the fray. Sen, a Trinamool Congress candidate, is up against CPM’s Basudeb Acharia, a nine-time MP, in Bankura.
Voting in Uttarakhand (5 seats) and Himachal Pradesh (4 seats) will end in one go.
Polling will also end in Jammu and Kashmir with voting in Baramulla and Ladakh.
This phase will mark the completion of more than 92% of voting in the Indian elections, which will enter the home stretch leading up to the final phase of polling on May 12 in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.