Fourth phase of voting to seal another 96 seats | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Fourth phase of voting to seal another 96 seats

By, New Delhi
May 13, 2024 06:58 AM IST

177 million Indians will vote in the fourth phase of Lok Sabha elections in 96 seats across 10 states and union territories on Monday, June 4.

From the once Maoist bastion of Malkangiri, to the glittering urban agglomeration of Hyderabad; from Srinagar that will vote for the first time since the revocation of Article 370, to Indore where the Congress will not fight the election at all — 177 million Indians will line up at 192,000 polling booths on Monday when the country holds its fourth phase of Lok Sabha elections in 96 parliamentary seats. Follow LIVE updates

Polling officials board a boat with election material in Chitrakonda, Odisha, on Sunday. (REUTERS)
Polling officials board a boat with election material in Chitrakonda, Odisha, on Sunday. (REUTERS)

This is the second-largest phase in the 2024 election cycle in terms of number of constituencies and will be spread out over ten states and union territories. Voting will also be held for the 175 assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh and 28 assembly seats in Odisha.

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Votes will be counted for both the Lok Sabha and the assembly elections on June 4.

In these 96 seats, there are 1,717 candidates in the fray, including high profile names such as Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s Asaduddin Owaisi in Telangana, and Congress’s Adhir Ranjan Choudhury in West Bengal and Bharatiya Janata Party’s Giriraj Singh in Bihar.

Also read: Lok Sabha elections 2024 Phase 4: Schools, colleges to remain closed in these states/UTs

When voting ends on Monday, 379 of India’s 543 constituencies will have voted, although there are some polling booths where a repoll will be held, such as Betul in Madhya Pradesh.

Even as the Election Commission has had to contend with heatwave conditions in previous phases, the poll panel downplayed this risk for Monday. “The weather forecast indicates that the Parliamentary Constituencies going for polls are likely to experience normal to below normal temperatures (±2 degrees) and there will be no heatwave-like condition in these areas on the polling day,” the EC said, in a press statement.

Among the key battleground states will be Andhra Pradesh, where all of its 25 Lok Sabha seats and 175 assembly constituencies will all see their fates sealed, with a newly minted alliance between the former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP, Pawan Kalyan’s Jan Sena and the BJP hoping to seize power from a dominant YSRCP.

In 2019, the party, led by Jagan Mohan Reddy had swept to power in the state, winning 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats and 151 of the 175 assembly seats.

Since then, Naidu and the BJP have both accused Reddy of corruption, even as the BJP kept its channels open with both regional forces in the run up to the election, eventually picking the TDP as its alliance partner.

While coordination within the alliance has not always been seamless, Naidu will hope that a combination of anti-incumbency and a caste calculus that brings together three parties will be enough to return him to the seat of power in the state.

Jharkhand too also sees the beginning of its Lok Sabha poll schedule on Monday, with four of its 14 seats voting on Monday, and the rest to be held in the three remaining phases.

A key seat among these four is Khuntu, where Union tribal affairs and agriculture minister Arjun Munda is hoping to secure a second term, but is against old foe Kalicharan Munda, who he beat in 2019 by a slender margin of 1,445 votes.

The BJP currently holds all four seats. “This phase is crucial for us also because three of the five seats reserved for scheduled tribes are going to polls. In 2019, we won three of five seats, but were washed out in most of the ST seats in assembly elections. This will be a test of whether the tribal sentiments has been revived for the BJP or is still held by the JMM and the Congress. We think we are comfortable on the general seats. The real battle is here,” a senior BJP leader said, asking not to be named.

In Odisha too, there are four Lok Sabha seats, as well as 28 of the 243 assembly seats that will vote on Monday. One key prestige battle is in Berhampur where the BJP is attempting to wrest back a Biju Janata Dal (BJD) citadel that it had last won in 1999. It has also become a key battle because the BJP candidate is Pradip Panigrahy, once the aide of Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik.

But away from Berhampur, there are also elections that will be held in the once-Maoist citadel of Swabhiman Anchal in the Nabarangpur Lok Sabha constituency, currently held by the BJD.

“At least 25 BSF companies and 100 other police personnel have been deployed in the district. We have also deployed more forces from other districts. Police personnel have been given satellite phones. Though the Andhra Pradesh-Odisha border is not seeing much movement of Maoists, we are keeping a close eye. Regular coordination meetings with police of Andhra Pradesh and Chhatisgarh are happening,” said a senior Odisha Police officer.

Elections will also be held in eight Madhya Pradesh seats on Monday, including in Indore, which has no Congress candidate in the fray after Akshay Bam, the man the party had given the ticket to, joined the BJP hours before he was scheduled to file his nomination. Of the other seven, three are seats reserved for scheduled tribes — Khargone, Ratlam and Dhar — and two are reserved for scheduled castes —Ujjain and Dewas.

In Bihar’s Munger, sitting MP and former JD(U) president Rajiv Ranjan Singh (also known as Lalan Singh) is in battle against Kumari Anita, the wife of gangster Ashok Mahto, of the Rashtriya Janata Dal. While Singh, a close confidant of chief minister Nitish Kumar, has said that he will sail through based on the NDA’s development agenda, the electoral battle is a test of the caste combination of both alliances in the fray. RJD state president and former deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav has urged “backward class” voters to unite and vote for the RJD candidate, an ostensible response to gangster Anant Singh, who has reportedly canvassed support for Lalan Singh. In the fray in the other seats are union ministers -- Giriraj Singh from Begusarai and Nityanand Rai from Ujiarpur.

In Uttar Pradesh, voting will be held in Kannauj, where SP chief and one of INDIA alliance’s key leaders Akhilesh Yadav will look to retain the seat against BJP’s Subrat Pathak.

Elections will also be held in Srinagar on Monday amid tight security in the first such election since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019. Security has been tightened across the five districts that make up the constituency. “We have made all the security arrangements in polling stations, locations, distribution centres and strong rooms. All the prescribed security arrangements under the guidelines of the election commission of India have been made for the Srinagar parliamentary constituency,” said Kashmir inspector general of police, Vidhi Kumar Birdi.

The police officer said that thousands of paramilitary personnel, road opening parties, quick reaction teams, static surveillance teams , flying squads and inter district checkpoints have been set up.

Though there are 24 candidates in fray, the constituency will likely witness a triangular contest between the National Conference (NC), whose candidate is Aga Ruhullah Mehdi, the Apni Party whose candidate is Mohammad Ashraf Mir and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who is being represented by Waheed Para.

Both the PDP and the NC have in recent days accused the Union government-led administration in Jammu and Kashmir of “bias” and “unjust crackdown on party activists”, with their leaders saying the local police had rounded up a number of party workers from both their organisations.

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