The stage is set for the polling in 95 Lok Sabha constituencies in phase 2 of the ongoing general elections in India. Union ministers Jitendra Singh, Jual Oram, Sadananda Gowda and Pon Radhakrishnan, former prime minister H D Deve Gowda and DMK's Dayanidhi Maran, A Raja and Kanimozhi are among the 1,600-odd contestants in the second phase of Lok Sabha polls to be held in 95 seats Thursday across 11 states and the union territory of Puducherry.
Key facts about Lok Sabha Elections Phase 2:
Date of polling: April 18, Thursday
Campaigning for Phase 2 of Lok Sabha elections ends today: 97 constituencies in 13 states to poll on April 18
Phase 2 of Lok Sabha Elections to be held tomorrow: Raj Babbar, Hema Malini among key candidates in fray
No. of constituencies: 95 in 11 states and 1 UT
Electoral: 15.8 crore voters
Candidates: Around 1600
Thirty-eight of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu will go to polls besides 18 assembly constituencies. Polling in Vellore Lok Sabha seat, which is currently represented by the AIADMK, was cancelled Tuesday by the Election Commission following recovery of huge amount of cash allegedly from an associate of a DMK leader recently.
The EC also announced postponement of polling in Tripura (East) Lok Sabha seat to the third phase on April 23, saying the prevailing law-and-order situation there is not conducive for holding free and fair polls.
Besides Tamil Nadu, polling will also be held in 14 seats in Karnataka, 10 in Maharashtra, eight in Uttar Pradesh, five each in Assam, Bihar and Odisha, three each in Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, two in Jammu and Kashmir and one seat each in Manipur and Puducherry. Elections will also be held in 35 assembly constituencies in Odisha.
Of the 95 constituencies, the AIADMK holds the maximum of 36 seats, followed by the BJP with 27 seats. The Congress had won 12 of these seats in 2014, the Shiv Sena and the BJD 4 each, the JD-S and the RJD two each and the AIUDF, the NCP, the JD-U, the PDP, the AINRC, the PMK, the CPI-M and the TMC one seat each.
Nearly 15.8 crore voters are eligible to vote in the second phase. Other prominent candidates in fray include Congress leaders Verappa Moily and Raj Babbar, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and BJP's Hema Malini.
In Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK, contesting as part of the NDA. The alliance comprises among others BJP, PMK, DMDK and Tamil Maanila Congress of former union minister G K Vasan.
The DMK has formed a "Secular Progressive Alliance" comprising the Congress and Left parties, among others.
The electoral battle in the state is largely among the two fronts led by the Dravidian majors and the AMMK led by TTV Dhinakaran, an AIADMK rival, though parties such as the fledgling Makkal Needhi Maiam of actor-politician Kamal Hassan are also testing their fortunes.
Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu are the first ever after the demise of Dravidian stalwarts J Jayalalithaa of AIADMK and M Karunanidhi of the DMK.
In Odisha, Chief Minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik is contesting from his home turf Hinjili in Ganjam district and Bijepur in Bargarh.
Among others, Union Tribal Affairs Minister Oram of the BJP, BJD's Rajya Sabha MPs Prasanna Acharya and Achyut Samant, BJP nominee and three-time MP Kharabela Swain are in the fray in the Lok Sabha polls.
Even though security was heightened, Maoists gunned down a polling officer in Kandhamal district of Odisha Wednesday when she was leading a team of poll personnel to a booth in Phulbani assembly segment.
It is a high-stakes battle for the ruling Congress-JD(S) alliance in Karnataka as any adverse result is likely to have an impact on the longevity of the coalition government in the state.
The BJP is determined to improve its tally compared to last time riding on the Modi wave.
A total of 179 candidates are in the fray in Maharashtra in the 10 constituencies spread in parts of Vidarbha and Marathwada regions. Former chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Sushilkumar Shinde of Congress are contesting from Nanded and Solapur seats respectively.
Cinestars Hema Malini and Raj Babbar are among the 85 candidates from Uttar Pradesh, whose electoral fate will be decided on Thursday. The eight Lok Sabha seats, where polling is scheduled to be held, were won by the BJP in 2014.
In Jammu and Kashmir, authorities have deployed over 80 companies for election duty in the twin constituencies of Srinagar and Udhampur. Thursday's polling in Srinagar will be keenly watched within and outside Kashmir as the constituency recorded an all-time low of 7.2 per cent voter turn out in the 2017 bye-election, marred by violence on polling day that left nine people dead and scores of others injured.
Fate of 68 candidates will be decided in Bihar by 86.01 lakh voters across Bhagalpur, Banka, Kishanganj, Katihar and Purnea Lok Sabha constituencies.
Five seats in Assam will see polling Thursday and one seat in Manipur.
The past few days have seen hectic campaigning by top leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and a host of Union ministers.
There was lot of drama during electioneering as several leaders like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Union minister Maneka Gandhi, BSP chief Mayawati and SP leader Azam Khan made controversial remarks, prompting the Election Commission to bar them from campaigning for varying periods over violations of the moral code of conduct.
In West Bengal, the EC has deployed 194 companies of central forces in the three constituencies going to polls to cover 80 per cent of the 5,390 booths for free and fair polling.
The fight for the lone Lok Sabha seat in Puducherry is expected to be mainly between the ruling Congress, which has put up former Speaker V Vaithilingam and the opposition AINRC's K Narayanasamy.
The Lok Sabha polls are being held in seven-phases for 543 seats on April 11, April 18, April 23, April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19, and counting will be on May 23.
Full list of constitiuencies going to polls on April 18:
|Jammu & Kashmir|
With inputs from PTI