India polls: Last phase of polling begins in 59 seats across 7 states, 1 UT


New Delhi, May 20 . Polling for the seventh and final phase of the Lok Sabha elections began on Sunday in 59 seats spread across seven states and one Union Territory.

A total of 918 candidates, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are in the fray in this last phase of ongoing polls. The Prime Minister is seeking re-election from Varanasi and is challenged by Ajay Rai of the Congress and SP’s Shalini Yadav.

In this phase of election, 13 seats each in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, nine in West Bengal, eight seats each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, all four constituencies in Himachal Pradesh, three in Jharkhand and one seat in the Union Territory of Chandigarh will witness polling.

According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), over 10.01 lakh voters will decide the fates of 918 candidates. The counting of votes will take place on May 23.

Other prominent political figures whose fate will be sealed in the electronic voting machines (EVMs) are Shatrughan Sinha (Congress) and Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP) from Patna Sahib constituency, Bhojpuri actor Ravi Kishan (BJP), Madhusudhan Tripathi (Congress) and Rambhusal Nishad of SP from Gorakhpur seat, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri of BJP and Congress’ Gurjeet Singh Aujla from Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency and actor Sunny Deol, who is pitted against Congress heavyweight Sunil Jakhar from the Gurdaspur seat.

The other leaders whose fortunes will also be decided in this final phase of polling are former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal (Ferozepur), his wife and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal (Bhatinda) and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s wife Perneet Kaur in (Patiala) – all in Punjab, three-time MP Anurag Thakur in Himachal Pradesh’s Hamirpur, former Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren (Dumka) and former Union Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who faces sitting MP Kirron Kher in Chandigarh.

The Election Commission (EC) has deployed 710 companies of security forces to ensure the last phase of Lok Sabha polling in West Bengal goes off peacefully.

The EC had said in a statement that “710 companies of security personnel will be providing 100 per cent coverage during the seventh phase of elections in West Bengal. This will include 512 quick response teams (QRTs) led by assistant commandants.”

The seats that are polling today are Kolkata North, Kolkata South, Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jadavpur, Diamond Harbour, Jaynagar (SC) and Mathurapur (SC).

The national poll body on Wednesday decided to cut short the campaign period in the state after violence marred BJP chief Amit Shah’s road show in Kolkata on Tuesday.

BJP and Communist Party of India (Marxist) had complained to the EC over the violence and had demanded adequate measures to ensure polls are held in a free and fair manner.

In the sixth phase of election on May 12, over 63 per cent polling was recorded, with the highest turnout of 80.35 per cent in West Bengal and a minimum of 59.74 per cent in the city-state of Delhi.

Barring stray incidents of violence in West Bengal, the election for 59 seats spread over eight states remained peaceful.”An estimated 63.43 per cent turnout was recorded on Sunday in the 6th phase of Lok Sabha polls on 59 seats,” Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha had said after the polling finished. ANI