Popularity test for VIPs in final phase of polls

Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking third consecutive term; five ministers in the fray.

NEW DELHI: A clutch of VIPs will face their popularity test in the last of seven phases of the general elections on Saturday. At stake is the reputation of big hitters such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his five cabinet colleagues and Opposition leaders like the Trinamool Congress’s Abhishek Banerjee. While Modi is meditating at the Vivekananda Rock memorial in Kanniyakumari, his party leaders are managing the Varanasi joust.

In all, 57 Lok Sabha seats spread across seven states — Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Punjab — and the Union territory of Chandigarh will go to polls. Modi is seeking his third consecutive re-election from Varanasi. His cabinet colleague Anurag Thakur is seeking re-election from Hamirpur. He is pitted against Congress’ Anand Sharma.

Other prominent BJP leaders in the fray are Anupriya Patel, R K Singh, Mahendra Nath Pandey, Pankaj Chaudhary, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s daughter Misa Bharti, and Congress’ Manish Tewari. The prestige of actor Kangana Ranaut and Himachal minister Vikramaditya Singh Singh is at stake in Mandi.

Taranjit Singh Sandhu, former envoy to the US, is pitted against Akali Dal’s Anil Joshi in Amritsar. Union minister R K Singh is aiming at a hat-trick from Arrah, where his challenger is Sudama Prasad, a sitting MLA of the CPI(ML) Liberation.

In Varanasi, those contesting against Modi are Ajay Rai (Congress), Ather Jamal Lari (BSP), Kolisetty Shiva Kumar (Yuga Thulasi Party), Gagan Prakash Yadav, (Apna Dal, Kameravadi), and independents Dinesh Kumar Yadav and Sanjay Kumar Tiwari.

In Patna Sahib, BJP veteran Ravi Shankar Prasad is eyeing a second consecutive term. In Bengal, the seventh phase will cover Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jayanagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin, and Kolkata Uttar, where the Trinamool secured victories in 2019. Late Mukhtar Ansari’s brother Afzal Ansari is in the fray from Ghazipur.

Phase 7 facts

  • 57 Parliamentary constituencies (General 41; ST 3; SC 13) in 8 States/UTs go to polls

  • 42 Assembly constituencies (General 27; ST 6; SC 9) of Odisha assembly, too, will have simultaneous polling

  • 10.9 lakh polling officials deployed

  • Over 10.06 cr electors to cast their votes - 5.24 cr male; 4.82 cr female and 3,574 third gender

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