Voting begins for last phase Lok Sabha polls
NEW DELHI: Polling began Sunday morning for 59 Lok Sabha seats in the seventh and last phase of Lok Sabha polls to decide the fate of 918 candidates including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking to retain the Varanasi seat in Uttar Pradesh.
Voting is underway in all 13 seats in Punjab and an equal number of seats in Uttar Pradesh, nine in West Bengal, eight seats each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, four in Himachal Pradesh, three in Jharkhand and the lone seat Chandigarh.
Over 10.01 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise. The Election Commission has set up more than 1.12 lakh polling stations and has deployed security personnel for smooth conduct of polls.
A bypoll is being held in Panaji, necessitated due to the death of former chief minister Manohar Parrikar in March. Bye-elections are also be held in four assembly constituencies of Tamil Nadu -- Sulur, Aravakurichi, Ottapidaram (SC) and Thiruparankundram -- and the Dehri assembly seat in Bihar.
In Uttar Pradesh, all eyes are on Varanasi, where besides Modi, 25 other candidates are in fray. Modi's main challengers are Congress's Ajay Rai and SP-BSP grand alliance's nominee Shalini Yadav.
Union minister Manoj Sinha, Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Mahendra Nath Pandey are seeking re-election from Ghazipur and Chandauli respectively.
SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri are among the 278 candidates including 24 women whose fate is being decided in Punjab.
Besides Punjab, more than 6 lakh voters in the union territory of Chandigarh will choose between sitting MP and BJP candidate Kirron Kher and former railway minister and Congress candidate Pawan Kumar Bansal.
Actor-turned-politician Sunny Deol, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar, Aam Aadmi Party's Punjab unit chief Bhagwant Mann are among other prominent candidates in the fray.
An electorate of 1,49,63,064 will decide the fate of 111 candidates in nine seats of West Bengal -- Kolkata North and Kolkata South, Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jadavpur, Diamond Harbour, Jaynagar (SC) and Mathurapur (SC).
As many as four Union ministers -- Ravi Shankar Prasad, Ram Kripal Yadav, RK Singh and Ashwini Kumar Choubey -- are among the 157 candidates in Bihar.
The electoral fortunes of 42 candidates including that of former chief minister and Union minister Shibu Soren are being decided in Jharkhand.
Dewas, Ujjain, Mandsaur, Ratlam, Dhar, Indore, Khargone and Khandwa seats in Madhya Pradesh, all currently held by the BJP, are going to polls in Madhya Pradesh.
Polling is also being held in all four Lok Sabha constituencies in Himachal Pradesh.
An average of 66.88 per cent voters exercised their franchise in the last six phases. The whole elections were spread over 38 days. Counting of votes will be taken up on May 23.