New Delhi: People in 12 states and union territories will vote tomorrow to elect 140 MPs in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections being contested by big names including Rahul Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, George Fernandes, Ramvilas Paswan and Sushma Swaraj with their campaigning focussed mostly on the theme who is fit to lead the country.
Election is already on today in one seat in Manipur Lok Sabha constituency, although polling there is counted as part of round-two of the five-phase elections. Polling would also be completed tomorrow to the state assemblies of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.
The first round of polling on 16 April was marked by violence in naxal-infested states, where 19 people were killed.
Rahul Gandhi is seeking re-election from the Gandhi family pocket-borough of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, Pawar from the newly created seat of Madha in Maharashtra, Swaraj from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh and Paswan from Hajipur in Bihar. Fernandes is contesting as an independent from Muzaffarpur after being shut out of his party.
Union Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath is contesting from Chhindwara constituency in Madhya Pradesh, while other prominent names include Akhilesh Prasad Singh (Purvi Champaran, Bihar), Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (Vaishali, Bihar) and Raghunath Jha (Valmikinagar, Bihar).
Like in the first phase, campaigning was peaceful but was aimed at verbally bruising the opponent and sometimes one’s own allies.
RJD president and UPA ally Lalu Prasad accused the Congress too of being responsible for the 1992 demolition of the 16th century Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh, an incident that had triggered a series of clashes between Hindus and Muslims.
The demolition of the mosque by Hindu fanatics occurred in the then BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, but the Congress was in power at the Centre.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hit back, saying the only mistake of Congress was that it had taken the BJP government’s assurance of protecting the Mughal-era monument on face value.
A total of 2,041 candidates, including 121 women, are in the fray in this round. The States to be covered are Andhra Pradesh 20 Lok Sabha seats, Assam 11, Bihar 13, Goa two, Jammu and Kashmir one, Karnataka 17, Madhya Pradesh 13, Maharashtra 25, Orissa 11, Tripura two, Uttar Pradesh 17 and Jharkhand eight.
At the end of the second phase, polls would be completed to 265 seats, just seven short of the magic number that parties need to form a government in the 545-member house. Elections are held to only 543 seats, as two members are nominated from the Anglo-Indian community.
Voting would commence at 7:00am, and close at 5pm, except in naxal-infested areas where it would end at 3:00pm, voters would be casting their ballots through Electronic Voting Machines, which were first introduced in a by-election in Kerala in 1982.
The round two elections will also see polling completed to the state assemblies of Andhra Pradesh (140 seats) and Orissa (77 seats).
The Andhra assembly elections will decide the fate of chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, his rival Chandrababu Naidu and actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi among others.
In Orissa, BJD chief Naveen Patnaik is aiming for a third straight term in office.
As many as 11 Lok Sabha and 77 assembly constituencies of the state are going to the second phase of polls in which the fate of former Union ministers Braja Kishore Tripathy (Puri), Arjun Sethi (Bhadrak) and Srikanta Jena (Balasore) as also a number of state ministers will be decided.