New Delhi: Voting began on Tuesday for 116 Lok Sabha seats, including all constituencies in Gujarat and Kerala, with BJP president Amit Shah, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and several Union ministers among prominent candidates in the fray.
About 18.56 crore voters are eligible for voting in the third phase of the elections, for which 2.10 lakh polling booths/stations have been set up. The Election Commission has made elaborate security arrangements. Besides all seats in Gujarat (26) and Kerala (20), voting will be held in four seats in Assam, five in Bihar, seven in Chhattisgarh, 14 each in Karnataka and Maharashtra, six in Odisha, 10 in Uttar Pradesh, five in West Bengal, two in Goa, and one each in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu and Tripura.
Voting in Tripura East constituency, which was earlier scheduled for April 18, is also being held, as also in a part of the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat in Jammu and Kashmir, where election is being held in three phases. Voting is also being held in some Assembly constituencies in Odisha, Gujarat and Goa. In the first two phases, election was held to 91 and 96 Lok Sabha seats on April 11 and April 18 respectively.
This phase will decide the fate of the heads of the BJP and Congress — Shah, who replaced L K Advani as the party nominee from Gandhinagar in Gujarat, and Gandhi, who is contesting from Wayanad in Kerala besides his traditional Amethi seat in Uttar Pradesh. Among other prominent candidates in this phase are Union ministers Alphons Kannamthanam (Ernakulam-Kerala), Jaswantsinh Bhabhor (Dahod-Gujarat) and Shripad Naik (North Goa), Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav (Mainpuri-Uttar Pradesh), Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and former Governor and BJP nominee Kummanam Rajasekharan (Thiruvananthapuram-Kerala), and AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal (Dhubri-Assam).
The stakes are high for the ruling BJP and its allies as they bagged 66 seats out of these 116 spread across 14 states and Union Territories in 2014 general election, while the Congress and its alliance partners won 27, and the rest went to other opposition parties and Independents. In the first two phases, election was held to 91 and 96 seats on April 11 and April 18 respectively. Election to 543 seats are being held in seven phases. The counting of votes will be on May 23.