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Campaigning ends for sixth phase, voting on May 12; Maneka Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, Digvijay Singh, Sadhvi Pragya Singh in fray

On May 12, voting will be held in 14 seats in Uttar Pradesh, ten in Haryana, eight seats each in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, seven in Delhi and four in Jharkhand. 

Campaigning ends for sixth phase, voting on May 12; Maneka Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, Digvijay Singh, Sadhvi Pragya Singh in fray
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NEW DELHI: High-octane campaign for the sixth and penultimate phase of Lok Sabha election 2019 cam to an end on Friday polling for which will be held in 59 constituencies in six states and 1 Union Territory – Delhi – on Sunday, May 12 amid unprecedented security.

Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Congress leader Digvijay Singh and BJP`s controversial Bhopal candidate Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur are among 968 candidates in the fray. On May 12, voting will be held in 14 seats in Uttar Pradesh, ten in Haryana, eight seats each in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, seven in Delhi and four in Jharkhand. 

Here's is a look at the state which will vote in the sixth phase of polls-

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DELHI

High-pitched poll campaigning came to an end in Delhi on Friday. The campaigning witnessed an attack on Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, acrimonious exchanges between the AAP and the BJP over allegations of horse-trading, rivals jabbing at one another over alleged discrepancies in affidavits and even a candidate of the ruling party in Delhi breaking down in a press conference.

As many as 164 candidates, including 18 women, are in the fray for the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi which goes to polls on Sunday under the sixth phase of the general elections.

It is expected to be a three-cornered fight involving the BJP, AAP and the Congress in the seven parliamentary seats of the national capital all of which were won by the saffron party in 2014.

Prominent candidates in the fray include veteran Congress leader Sheila Dikshit, Olympian boxer Vijender Singh, Union minister Harsh Vardhan, Atishi from AAP and her BJP rival cricketer-turned-politician Gautam Gambhir.

Voting will begin at 7 AM on May 12 and scheduled to go on till 6 PM.

The 48 hour-period from 6 pm Friday to 6 pm Sunday, known as the silence period, will also be observed as 'dry day'.

A total of 13,819 polling stations will be set up at 2,700 locations in Delhi, with one model polling station in each of the 70 assembly segments. Seventeen polling stations will be staffed only by women.

The campaign, which initially got off to a slow start as alliance talks between the AAP and Congress lingered on till the last days of nomination, gained momentum over the last fortnight with senior leaders drawing huge crowds at mega rallies and road shows in the national capital.

It reached a crescendo in its last lap with Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding a massive rally at the iconic Ramlila Maidan here, Congress President Rahul Gandhi addressing two public meetings, while his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra taking out two road shows in the city.

The campaign also saw cine stars - Hema Malini, Sunny Deol, Prakash Raj, Swara Bhaskar - garnering support for the candidates.

While the BJP's campaign revolved around the party's high-pitched nationalism narrative and the popularity of Modi, the Congress kept him in the crosshairs and sought to hard sell its minimum income guarantee scheme – Nyay.

The AAP, on the other hand, focussed on the demand for full statehood for Delhi.

BIHAR

Campaigning for the eight Lok Sabha seats in Bihar going to the polls in the penultimate phase on Sunday ended peacefully on Friday.

Out of the 40 parliamentary constituencies in the state, 24 had voted in the previous phases of Lok Sabha polls, while the remaining eight will vote in the seventh and final phase on May 19.

The following seats in the flood-prone, Bhojpuri speaking north Bihar region will go to the polls on Sunday -- Gopalganj, Siwan, Maharajganj, East Champaran, West Champaran, Valmiki Nagar, Sheohar and Vaishali. 

More than 1.38 lakh voters will decide the fate of 127 candidates in the sixth phase of polling.

The nearly three-week-long canvassing saw top leaders from the BJP-JD(U)-LJP combine and those from the opposition Grand Alliance comprising RJD, Congress, RLSP, HAM and VIP campaign in the state. The Left parties and the BSP too hit the campaign trail. 

The sixth phase of polling will see direct contests between the NDA allies and the opposition Grand Alliance, except in Siwan and East Champaran, which will witness a triangular fight involving the Left party candidates. 

The prominent candidates in the fray include Union Minister and BJP leader Radha Mohan Singh (East Champaran), former Union Minister and RJD candidate Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (Vaishali), jailed former MP Mohammad Shahabuddin`s wife Hina Sahab of the RJD (Siwan) and BJP`s Rama Devi, who`s aiming for a hat-trick of wins from Sheohar. 

UTTAR PRADESH

Hectic electioneering ended on Friday evening for 14 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, including those for which Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and Union minister Maneka Gandhi are in the fray. Polling will be held Sunday in Sultanpur, Pratapgarh, Phulpur, Allahabad, Ambedkarnagar, Shrawasti, Domariyaganj, Basti, Sant Kabirnagar, Lalganj, Jaunpur, Machchlishahr, Bhadohi and Azamgarh constituencies.

For the BJP, campaigning peaked on Thursday when Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed three back-to-back rallies in Azamgarh, Jaunpur and Allahabad. The same day, party president Amit Shah made his presence felt at four other meetings. The Prime Minister had also addressed two rallies in Pratapgarh and Basti last Saturday.

The opposition alliance in the state also focused on the Purvanchal region in the last few days. SP's Akhilesh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party's Mayawati and Rashtriya Lok Dal's Ajit Singh held a series of election meetings. For the Congress, its general secretary Priyanka Gandhi led the campaigning, holding meetings and roadshows in Pratapgarh, Siddharthnagar and Sant Kabirnagar over the last few days.

The Bharatiya Janata Party won 13 of these 14 constituencies in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The only exception was Azamgarh, won then by SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav. The BJP had swept the 2014 polls winning 71 of the total 80 seats in the state, with two others being won by ally Apna Dal (Sonelal). The Congress won two and the SP five.

In Azamgarh this time, Akhilesh Yadav is trying to retain his father's seat against Bhojpuri film star Dinesh Lal Yadav `Nirahua' of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Nirahua was honoured by the previous SP government led by Akhilesh Yadav with the state's Yash Bharti award.

Sultanpur too is seeing an interesting contest. The BJP has fielded Union minister Maneka Gandhi for the seat won by her son Varun Gandhi in 2014. She faces Sanjay Singh of the Congress. Altogether, 177 candidates are contesting in these 14 constituencies, where 2.53 crore people are eligible to vote across 16,998 polling centres.

HARYANA

Campaigning ended here on Friday evening in the 10 Lok Sabha constituencies in Haryana, where two Union Ministers are seeking re-election and a former chief minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, is trying to make it to the Lower House.

The high-voltage electioneering for the May 12 polls saw the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress field a galaxy of stars. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah campaigned in the state even on the last day of electioneering.

PM Modi addressed a rally in Rohtak, considered a stronghold of the Hooda family, where he brought up the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari have also visited the state where voting will take place over all seats in a single phase. Actor-turned-politician Hema Malini too dropped in for the BJP.

For the Congress, party president Rahul Gandhi, general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Raj Babbar and Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu pitched in. Delhi CM and Aam Aadmi Party convenor Arvind Kejriwal campaigned for the Jannayak Janata Party-AAP alliance candidates while Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati sought votes for her party and its ally Loktantra Suraksha Party.

The JJP is contesting on seven seats and the AAP three. The BSP is fighting on eight, leaving two for its ally LSP. Indian National Lok Dal, going through a rough patch after the party split last year due to a feud in the Chautala family which led to the birth of JJP, is contesting on all 10 seats.

Among the prominent BJP candidates in the fray are Union Ministers Rao Inderjit Singh, who is seeking re-election from Gurgaon, and Krishan Pal Gurjar, who is fighting to represent Faridabad again.

Union Minister Birender Singh's son Brijendra Singh (BJP) and former chief minister Bhajan Lal's grandson Bhavya Bishnoi (Congress), both political greenhorns, are contesting from the Hisar Lok Sabha seat. They face Dushyant Chautala, the sitting MP and leader of the newly floated JJP.

The opposition Congress has fielded its stalwarts on several seats. Bhupinder Hooda, who is a sitting MLA from Garhi Sampla-Kiloi in Rohtak district, has entered the fray from Sonipat. Former Union minister Kumari Selja and state Congress chief Ashok Tanwar are fighting from Ambala and Sirsa, respectively, for the party.

In the 2014 parliamentary polls, the BJP contested eight seats and won seven. Its then ally Haryana Janhit Congress had then fought on two seats, losing both. The INLD won two seats and the Congress bagged one last time. The Congress has re-nominated its Rohtak sitting MP Deepender Singh Hooda, son of Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The BJP has retained five of its seven sitting MPs. It replaced its Karnal MP Ashwini Chopra with Sanjay Bhatia.

In Kurukshetra, the ruling party nominated Haryana minister Nayab Singh Saini after the party's sitting MP from there Raj Kumar Saini turned rebel and floated his own outfit LSP. Over 1.80 crore people are eligible to vote in the state.

Of them, 97,16,516 are male, 83,40,173 female and 207 transgender. Altogether, 223 candidates are in the fray. Just 11 of them are women.

WEST BENGAL

The high-pitched campaigning by different political parties for eight Lok Sabha constituencies going to the polls in the sixth phase on May 12 came to an end Friday evening.

The election in this phase will cover Jangal Mahal - the forested region of Bankura, West Midnapore, Jhargram and Purulia districts which used to be a Maoist hotbed during the erstwhile Left Front regime. Seats in which elections will be held on Sunday are Tamluk, Kanthi, Ghatal, Jhargram (ST), Medinipur, Purulia, Bankura and Bishnupur (SC), where an electorate of 1,33,69,749 will decide the fate of 83 candidates.

The EC will deploy a total 770 companies of central forces, which will cover almost 100 per cent polling booths in the eight constituencies to ensure free and fair polling, officials in the poll panel said.

All the eight seats spread across the four Jangal Mahal districts and East Midnapore will see mostly a four-cornered contest between Trinamool Congress, BJP, Congress and the Left Front. Only Bankura seat will have a triangular fight since Congress did not put up any candidate there.

The campaign saw poll meetings by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP president Amit Shah, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congres supremo Mamata Banerjee and her Andhra Pradesh counterpart N Chandrababu Naidu. Banerjee also participated in a number of roadshows.

In Tamluk seat, BJP fielded Siddhartha Shankar Naskar against sitting TMC MP Dibyendu Adhikari. The Left Front constituent CPI(M) has nominated Sk Ibrahim Ali, while the Congress has nominated Lakshman Seth, who was earlier in CPI(M). In Kanthi, the TMC MP Sisir Adhikari is contesting against BJP's Dr Debasis Samanta. The Congress has nominated Deepak Kumar Das and CPI(M) Paritosh Pattanayak.

Ghatal Lok Sabha seat will see TMC's sitting celebrity candidate Deepak Adhikari (Dev) locking horns with BJP's Bharati Ghosh, a former IPS officer. Congress has nominated Khandakar Md Saifullah and the Left Front constituent CPI Tapan Ganguli. In Jhargram (ST) seat TMC's Birbaha Soren (Tudu) will contest against Kunar Hembram of BJP. The Congress has fielded Jageswar Hembram and CPI(M) Deblina Hembram.

Manas Ranjan Bhunia is the TMC candidate from Medinipur seat against BJP's state president Dilip Ghosh. The Congress has nominated Sambhunath Chattopadhyay and the Left Front constituent CPI has fielded Biplab Bhatta for the seat.

In Purulia, sitting MP Mriganka Mahato of TMC will contest against BJP's Jyotirmoy Singh Mahato. The Left Front constituent All India Forward Bloc has nominated Bir Singh Mahato and the Congress Nepal Mahato for the seat.

In Bankura seat, TMC's Subrata Mukherjee will contest against Dr Subhas Sarkar of BJP. The CPI(M) has fielded Amiya Patra. The seat will have a triangular contest. Shyamal Santra is the TMC candidate from Bishnupur (SC) seat against BJP's Saumitra Khan. The CPI(M) has nominated Sunil Khan and the Congress has fielded Narayan Chandra Khan.

Besides general election observers and expenditure observers, the poll panel has for the first time deployed a special police observer and a special observer.

JHARKHAND

Campaigning for the third phase of polling in Jharkhand for four seats ended on Friday evening with polling set for May 12. The four seats where polling will take place are Giridih, Dhanbad, Jamshedpur and Singhbhum. The contest is interesting in Giridih, Dhanbad and Singhbhum (Chaibasa).

In Chaibasa, there is a direct fight between Congress candidate Geeta Koda and Jharkhand BJP President and sitting Lok Sabha MP Lakshman Giluwa. Koda is the wife of former Chief Minister Madhu Koda who was a Lok Sabha MP from 2009 to 2014.

In rural areas, Geeta Koda is in a good position. In Chaibasa there are 12.57 lakh voters with six lakh from the Ho tribal community to which Geeta Koda also belongs.

In 2014, Giluwa had secured 3,03,131 votes and Geeta Koda had got 2,15,607 votes. The Congress candidate at the time got 1,11,796 votes. This time Geeta Koda is the Congress candidate. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi have both campaigned for their party candidates.

In Dhanbad, the fight is between Congress candidate Kirti Jha Azad and sitting BJP MP PN Singh. Singh had got 5,43,491 votes in 2014 and then Congress candidate Ajay Kumar Dubey had got 2,50,537 votes. Azad has not received support from local Congress leaders and he is considered as an outsider though Rahul Gandhi did hold a roadshow to support him. Its impact on voters will only be known on counting day on May 23.

Another interesting seat is Giridih. The BJP has left the Giridih seat to its ally, All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU). The AJSU has fielded Jharkhand Water Resources Minister Chandra Prakash Chaudhary. He is pitted against Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) candidate and legislator Jaggnath Mahto who had lost the 2014 poll by just 40,000 votes against the BJP`s Rabindra Pandey.

In Jamshedpur, the contest is between the BJP`s sitting MP Vidyut Baran Mahto and Champai Soren of the JMM. In the third phase of polling in the state, the sixth overall in the country, there are 67 candidates in the fray in Jharkhand.

MADHYA PRADESH

The high-decibel campaigning for eight Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh which will go to vote on May 12 came to an end on Friday. This will be the third phase of polling in Madhya Pradesh, with the first and second phases having been held on April 29 and May 6. 

The polling here on Sunday will decide the fate of several prominent candidates, including Digvijay Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia, who are the Congress candidates, and the BJP's Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar.

The contest between Congress' Digvijay Singh and Hindutva activist and Malegaon blast case accused Pragya Thakur in Bhopal will be one of the most keenly watched fights in the election. Political observers say that in order to shed his pro-minorities image, Digvijay Singh peddled the 'soft Hindutva' line by roping in seers, including Computer Baba (Namdeo Das Tyagi) who conducted 'hath yoga' and set afire cow dung cakes.

They also conducted a roadshow in support of Digvijay Singh in the state capital to woo voters. On the other hand, Pragya Thakur highlighted her alleged torture in police custody to win the sympathy of voters in Bhopal, which has been a BJP bastion since 1989. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP's Alok Sanjar had won from Bhopal with a margin of over 3.70 lakh votes.

Besides, senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia is in fray again from his traditional Guna seat which he is winning since 2002. Scindia's wife Priyadarshini Raje campaigned vigorously in the constituency in his absence. Even his son Mahaaryaman Jyotriaditya Scindia sent a video message to the electorates, urging them to vote for the right candidate in the interest of the region's development.

Scindia's opponent is the BJP's KP Yadav who is contesting his first parliamentary elections. The Congress leader had won the 2014 Lok Sabha polls with a margin of over 1.20 lakh votes.

Replacing sitting MP Anoop Mishra, who is a nephew of late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the BJP has fielded Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar from the Morena Lok Sabha seat. In 2014, Mishra won by a margin of 1.32 lakh votes. Tomar is pitted against the Congress' Ramniwas Rawat and the Bahujan Samaj Party's (BSP) Kartar Singh Bhadana.

In this phase, polling will also be held in Bhind, Gwalior, Sagar, Vidisha and Rajgarh. From Bhind, the BJP has fielded former MLA Sandhya Rai against Congress' Devashish Jararia, who is contesting his maiden election. In Gwalior, the BJP is banking on city Mayor Vivek Shejwalkar and the Congress has fielded Ashok Singh.

The saffron party has fielded Rajbahadur Singh from Sagar against Congress leader and former minister Prabhu Singh Thakur.

In Vidisha, BJP's Ramakant Bhargava is contesting against Congress' former MLA Shailendra Patel. From Rajgarh, the traditional seat of Congress stalwart Digvijay Singh, the party has fielded Mona Sustani, who is contesting her maiden Lok Sabha election, against the BJP's sitting MP Raodmal Nagar.

(With Inputs From PTI/IANS)