Campaigning for fourth phase draws to a close
In backdrop of exit poll projection of a hung house, campaigning for 83 seats in seven states, including Vajpayee's constituency Lucknow, drew to a close this evening.
In the backdrop of exit poll projection of a hung house, campaigning for 83 parliamentary seats in seven states, including Prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's constituency Lucknow, drew to a close this evening.
Taking electioneering to a crescendo, leaders of political parties stepped up the frequency of rallies in a last-minute bid to woo the 10.72 crore electorate.
The focus then shifted to door-to-door campaigns in all the 25 seats of Rajasthan, 30 out of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 12 out of 29 constituencies in Madhya Pradesh, the last 12 of the 40 seats in Bihar, one each in Jammu and Kashmir and Nagaland and two in Arunachal Pradesh.
As many as 921 candidates, including 64 women, are in the fray for the penultimate phase which is seen as crucial by all political parties, which have pulled all stops to retain or capture lost ground amidst exit-poll projections of no party/ alliance passing the magic mark of 272 in the 543-strong house.
The polls on Wednesday would seal the electoral fate among others of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mualayam Singh Yadav, his son Akhilesh, Union Ministers Murli Manohar Joshi, Sharad Yadav, Shahnawaz Hussain, as also former Bihar Chief Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav and President of J &K People's Democratic party leader Mehbooba Mufti, who is pitted against CPI(M) leader Yusuf Tarigami in Anantnag.
While Vajpayee addressed rallies in Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh and in neighbouring Rajasthan telling people to vote for "stability" and give him a strong mandate for a second term, Congress President Sonia Gandhi campaigned in Punjab and Himachal to revive the fortunes of her party at the hustings.
Rahul Gandhi also campaigned for the Congress in Kanpur to shore up the party's strength which at present stands at 114, its lowest ever in the Lok Sabha.
While Mulayam Singh Yadav campaigned full blast in his stronghold of Uttar Pradesh, BSP leader Mayawati, who is being seen as a likely major player in the post-poll scenario, had three rallies in the national capital to tilt the balance in her favour.
The key contests in the May 5 elections include Madehpura in Bihar, where Sharad Yadav is seeking re-election against Laloo Yadav who was defeated in the last polls. HRD minister Murli Manohar Joshi is seeking re-election from Allahabad, Mulayam Singh is contesting from Mainpuri, a seat he once held. Akhilesh Singh, his son, is in fray from Kannauj.
Other prominent personalities, whose fate would be sealed on Wednesday include, former UP Chief minister Kalyan SIngh seeking election from Bulandshahr, Union Ministers Shahnawaz Hussain from Kishanganj in Bihar and Prahlad Patel seeking re-election from Chhindwara against Congress veteran Kamalnath.
Other contests to watch out would be in Rajasthan, where former Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar is contesting from Churu while his Congress colleague former Union minister Buta Singh is pitted against Sushila Laxman, wife of former BJP President Bangaru Laxman in Jalore.
The desert state is also seeing a keen contest with sons of political stalwarts entering the fray to retain traditional family seats. While Sachin Pilot, the son of late Congress leader Rajesh Pilot, makes his electoral debut from Dausa, Chief minister Vasundhara Raje's son Dushyant is seeking to win from Jhalawar, a seat held by his mother in the dissolved house before she became the Chief Minister.
Union Finance Minister Jaswant Singh's son Manvendra Singh is seeking election from Barmer, where he was defeated by Congress stalwart Son Ram Chaudhary last time.
The star-contests on May 5 include Garam-Dharam in Bikaner, Raj Babbar, seeking re-election from Agra on Samajwadi Party ticket, Raja Bundela for Congress in Jhansi (UP).
Other prominent contests include Fromer Rajasthan Congres chief Girija Vyas, seeking to defend Udaipur and former Chief Minister Charan Singh's daughter Gyanwati contesting for RLD from Mathura. The histroy sheeters in fray include among others Babloo Srivastava from Sitappur in UP and Rajiv Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav from Purnea in Bihar.