General Elections 2014: Voting begins in 64 seats in eighth phase

With nearly half of the 64 seats that go to polls in the penultimate round of the Lok Sabha elections on Wednesday, Congress appears to have an uphill task to perform when the whole of Seemandhra and parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal cast their vote.

PTI| Last Updated: May 07, 2014, 07:07 AM IST

New Delhi: With nearly half of the 64 seats that go to polls in the penultimate round of the Lok Sabha elections tomorrow, Congress appears to have an uphill task to perform when the whole of Seemandhra and parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal cast their vote.

Conversely its main rival BJP, which currently has only five seats in tomorrow`s round, may have everything to gain if it improves its performance in heartland UP and Bihar and Uttarakhand.

The fate of 1,737 candidates, including Rahul Gandhi (Amethi), his cousin Varun (Sultanpur), Union minister Beni Prasad Verma (Gonda), cricketer-turned-politician Md Kaif (Phulpur-all in UP), Ram Vilas Paswan (Hajipur), Rabri Devi and Rajiv Pratap Rudy (Saran-all in Bihar) is in the hands of 18.47 crore voters who are eligible to cast their franchise.

Elections will also be held tomorrow in Mandi in Himachal Pradesh where Pratibha, wife of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, is contesting while Anurag Thakur, sitting MP and son of former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal, is the candidate in Hamirpur.

Seemandhra, comprising the areas of Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra accounting for 25 seats will vote tomorrow for both Lok Sabha and Assembly. In the last two Parliamentary elections, Congress had done exceedingly well and had contributed overwhelmingly to the making of the UPA government at the Centre.

In 2009, the Congress had won 19 of the 25 seats in the region. It had also formed the government in Andhra Pradesh on both the occasions.

The demise of strongman Y S Rajashekhar Reddy shortly after the 2009 polls and the split in the party effected by his son Y S Jaganmohan Reddy coupled with politics over division of the state have combined to pose big hurdles for the party in the current elections.

Besides, Andhra Pradesh, elections will be held in seven Lok Sabha constituencies in Bihar, 15 in UP, six in West Bengal, five in Uttarakhand, four in Himachal Pradesh and two in Jammu and Kashmir.

Stakes are also high for TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu, who had lost the assembly elections both in 2004 and 2009, and Jaganmohan Reddy, whose party is fighting the assembly elections for the first time.

In the outgoing Lok Sabha, TDP has four members while YSR Congress has two. The fate of Union ministers V Kishore Chandra Deo and M M Pallam Raju will be decided in Araku and Kakinada in North Coastal Andhra.

In Uttar Pradesh, of the 15 seats going to polls tomorrow, Congress has seven, while BSP and SP have five and three respectively.

Seven seats are up for grabs in Bihar. Of this, JD (U) ruling the state has four, while RJD has two and BJP one.

The Left parties, which had won all the six seats going to polls tomorrow in West Bengal, also face a stiff challenge from the ruling Trinamool Congress. Of the six seats, the CPI (M) has four and CPI and AIFB one each.

In the hill state of Uttarakhand, a keen and direct contest between Congress and BJP is on the cards in the five seats. Chief Minister Harish Rawat`s wife Renuka is making her maiden attempt to enter the Lok Sabha through Hardwar. In the last elections, Congress had won four of the five seats, leaving Tehri-Garwhal to BJP.
Similarly, in Himachal Pradesh, where the contest is straight between Congress and BJP, the saffron party had won three seats in the last elections.

With elections in two constituencies --Baramulla and Ladakh--in Jammu and Kashmir, polling will be completed in all the seven constituencies tomorrow.
The Baramulla seat is now held by the ruling National Conference, while Independent Hassan Khan is the sitting MP from Ladakh.