NEW DELHI: Campaigning for the third phase of polling scheduled for April 23 in 116 parliamentary constituencies ended Sunday with top leaders making a last-gasp effort to sway voters in favour of their respective parties.
Polling will be held in the 116 seats, spread across 14 states and Union Territories. All seats in Gujarat (26), Kerala (20), Goa (2), Dadra and Nagar Haveli (1) and Daman and Diu (1) go to polls in the third of the seven-phase election.
Besides, polling will be held in four seats in Assam, five in Bihar, seven in Chhattisgarh, one in Jammu and Kashmir, 14 in Karnataka, 14 in Maharashtra, six in Odisha, 10 in Uttar Pradesh, and five in West Bengal.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and a host of Union ministers among others canvassed for their party candidates over the past few days, undertaking whirlwind tours of constituencies.
Among the key contestants in the fray are BJP chief Amit Shah (Gandhinagar, Gujarat), Congress president Rahul Gandhi (Wayanad, Kerala), and Samajwadi Party patron Mulayam Singh Yadav (Mainpuri, UP).
In Kerala, the campaign was marred by a spate of incidents of violence Sunday involving members of all the three major fronts. The roadshow of senior Congress leader AK Antony at Thiruvananthapuram was allegedly blocked by a group of LDF activists forcing the former union minister to return.
Over 30 people, including a policeman, were injured at Thiruvalla, in Pathanamthitta district where the activists of the BJP and the Left clashed, police said adding they made a lathicharge to disperse the stone-pelting crowd. Stone-pelting was reported from the Alathur constituency, where the convoy of UDF candidate Ramya Haridas was allegedly pelted with stones.
During campaigning in Gujarat, the two principal parties -- the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress -- exchanged acrimonious barbs, with leaders from both groups exuding confidence of a good showing. The BJP had swept all 26 seats in the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
In Maharashtra, the prominent seats in the third phase include Jalna, where state BJP president Raosaheb Danveis in the fray against Vilas Autade of the Congress, and Baramati, where Supriya Sule, the daughter of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, is contesting against BJP's Kanchan Kul. Another keenly watched seat will be Ahmednagar where Sujay Vikhe Patil is the BJP's nominee.
He is the son of Congress veteran and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil. Sujay Vikhe Patil joined the BJP in the run-up to the polls, after the NCP refused to vacate the Ahmednagar seat for the Congress. He is now pitted against NCP's Sangram Jagtap.
Key constituencies in Karnataka include Gulbarga, where Mallikarjun Kharge is pitted against Umesh Jadhav, who ahead of polls joined the BJP quitting Congress and as MLA; and Shimogga, where former chief Minister Yeddyurappa's son B Y Raghavendra is pitted against another former chief minister S Bangarappa's son Madhu Bangarappa.
In 14 constituencies that will go to the polls in the second phase on April 23, the BJP is contesting all the seats. Congress and JD(S) that are facing the polls in alliance have fielded their candidates in 12 and two constituencies respectively.
The BJP has a huge stake in this phase in Uttar Pradesh with the party having won seven out of the 10 seats in the region in 2014 (three went to the Samajwadi Party), but is facing a tough challenge from SP-BSP-RLD combine here.
The campaigning for the phase witnessed a new low with SP leader Azam Khan making an "indecent" remark, targeting his opponent Jaya Prada in Rampur by allegedly speculating on the colour of her underwear and attracting the saffron party's wrath, besides that of the National Commission for Women. Khan was among the three other leaders, including Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and BSP supremo Mayawati, who faced the poll panel's wrath for making "provocative" speeches.
The political heavyweights, whose fate will be decided in the third phase of elections here, include Mulayam Singh Yadav, Union minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar, who is fighting from Bareilly and BJP's Varun Gandhi from Pilibhit.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the campaign in the Anantnag district, which is part of the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency going to polls in three phases, ended. The Lok Sabha polls are being conducted in seven phases between April 11 and May 19. The election results will be declared on May 23.