Voting for the first phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will take place today (Thursday). Voting will be held in 91 Lok Sabha seats in as many as 20 states and Union territories. Besides this, people in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha will also vote for their respective assembly elections.
The Election Commission of India has made elaborate security arrangements to ensure the polls are conducted in a free and fair manner.
There are a total of 14.21 crore electors in phase 1, of which 7.22 crore are male and 8.99 crore are female. The Election Commission has set up 1.70 lakh polling booths for the first phase of 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
A total of 1,279 candidates are in the fray in the first phase. A total of 83 of these are from the BJP, 83 from Congress, 33 from BSP, 26 from YSR Congress, 25 from TDP, 17 from TRS and 1,279 of them are Independents and others.
The first round includes seats where the stakes are almost equal for all formations – BJP+, Congress+ and parties inclined to come together after the polls and those who claim to be equidistant.
BJP+ has 35 members in the last Lok Sabha, Congress+ 27 and others 26. The first phase also involves every bit of socio-political complexities that confront political outfits, spin doctors and candidates.
From strife-torn Baramulla and Jammu in J&K, to the minority, scheduled caste and Jat-dominated polarisation-prone eight political cauldrons in UP, phase 1 shows how the ground has changed since 2014.
While BJP and Congress have footprint in every state going to the polls, regional parties are a force to reckon with in many belts.
The Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) of Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and Ajit Singh’s RLD in Uttar Pradesh will like to emerge as the key grouping in a post-poll scenario if BJP fails to get requisite numbers and a third front government becomes a possibility.
For Biju Janata Dal (BJD) Naveen Patnaik’s government in Odisha, this is a critical battle. The party has ruled the state for 15 years and faces a strident BJP after Congress, in the absence of a tall leader, has fallen to the third spot.
If BJD cedes ground to BJP, the latter may somewhat make up for the losses it suffers in states like UP, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
In the east, it will be the start of a Battle Royale in West Bengal. The Mamata Banerjee’s All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) vs BJP fight for Bengal has gained momentum after Congress and the Left front failed to cobble a coalition and have created a four-cornered contest.
Here again BJP has risen as a force riding on a retreating Congress. If the absence of alliances in Bengal will test the parties, it will be a test for the collations in Maharashtra.
The BJP-Sena pact will be facing grouping which has Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress. Andhra Pradesh is another must watch battle.
Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is fighting the most significant battle of his life. He allied with Congress in the recent Telangana elections but decided to share not even a single seat with the party in his state.
Naidu’s main rival YSR Congress leader Jagan Mohan Reddy has been raising a lot of political heat. BJP, a junior player in the state, plans to hurt TDP which walked out of NDA over special status for Andhra Pradesh.
The first phase is crucial, and since every vote counts, each political party will expect that voter turnout is as high as the 70.74 per cent in 2014.
The phase will witness several prestige battles with central ministers and top leaders of political parties and coalitions trying their luck.
Some key points you should know about Phase 1:
1) The states where voting will take place in phase 1 include Andhra Pradesh (25 parliamentary constituencies), Arunachal Pradesh (2), Assam (5), Bihar (4), Chhattisgarh (1), Jammu and Kashmir (2), Maharashtra (7), Manipur (1), Meghalaya (2), Mizoram (1), Nagaland (1), Odisha (4), Sikkim (1), Telangana (17), Tripura (1), Uttar Pradesh (8), Uttarakhand (5), West Bengal (2), Andaman (1) and Lakshadweep (1).
2) Voting to the state assemblies in Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim will be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections.
3) Some of the key candidates whose fate will be decided in today’s voting include Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Gen (retd) VK Singh and Kiren Rijiju, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, Ajit Singh, Jayant Chaudhary, Chirag Paswan, former Bihar CM Jeetanram Manjhi, and Asaduddin Owaisi.
4) In Maharashtra, the Election Commission will conduct live webcast of over 1,400 polling booths where voting will take place in the first phase. Polling will be held for Wardha, Ramtek, Nagpur, Bhandara-Gondia, Gadchiroli-Chimur, Chandrapur and Yavatmal-Washim Lok Sabha constituencies Thursday.
5) As per the directions from the Election Commission of India, drinking water and shaded areas to protect voters from the summer heat will be arranged, and `Sakhi’ polling booths (where all officials will be women) have also been set up.
7) In Jammu and Kashmir, separatists have called for a strike on Thursday to protest against the elections and the “NIA aggression” against Hurriyat Conference leaders and their kin.
8) Meanwhile, 27 seven per cent of the Congress candidates and 19 per cent of the BJP candidates fielded for the first phase of Lok Sabha election have serious criminal charges registered against them, according to an analysis by ADR India. The two national parties have fielded 83 candidates each for the first phase of the election.
(With inputs from agencies)
Follow IndiaToday.in’s complete election coverage here.
ALSO READ | Your complete guide for 2019 Lok Sabha elections