By Prashant Sood
New Delhi, April 16 (IANS) As 97 Lok Sabha constituencies go to the polls in the second phase of elections tomorrow, AIADMK has the maximum number of 36 seats to defend, followed by the BJP, which has 26 at stake.
In the second phase, which will cover 13 states, Congress has 11 seats at stake while Shiv Sena has to defend 4, BJD 3, RJD, JD(S) and CPI(M) 2 each, and JD(U), TMC, NCP, National Conference, AIUDF, PMK and AINRC one each.
Of the 97 seats going to polls tomorrow, 39 are in Tamil Nadu, 14 in Karnataka, 10 in Maharashtra, 8 in Uttar Pradesh, five each in Assam, Bihar and Odisha, three in West Bengal, two in Jammu and Kashmir, one each in Manipur, Tripura and Puducherry.
The first phase on April 11 saw voting in 91 constituencies spread across 20 states.
In Tamil Nadu, where all the 39 Lok Sabha seats will see balloting tomorrow, it is the first major election without the stalwarts – late AIADMK leader Jayalaithaa and late DMK leader M. Karunanidhi.
The 2014 Lok Sabha elections in the state were swept by the AIDMK under Jayalalithaa’s leadership, winning 37 of the total 39 seats.
In the by polls later, the party lost one seat and now has 36 seats to defend in a changed political situation after Jayalalithaa’s death.
The party faces a strong challenge from the DMK-led alliance.
The BJP, which had won one seat in the state in the last elections, is trying to emerge as a player in the southern state. It has sought to forge a “formidable alliance” led by AIADMK and is contesting five seats in the state.
Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan’s party Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) is also in the fray for the first time.
Congress, which drew a blank in 2014, is contesting nine seats as part of the front led by DMK.
Among the state’s constituencies going to the polls is Pollcahi, where sexual abuse-cum-blackmail case had created a political furore. DMK has been raking up the issue in the hope that it will hit the ruling AIADMK.
After Tamil Nadu, the biggest chunk of 14 seats going to polls tomorrow is Karnataka.
In the state, key constituencies to be watched out for include Tumkur from where former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda is in the fray. He has left his traditional Hasaan seat for his grandson Prajwal Revanna, where BJP has fielded A Madhu.
His other grandson Nikhil Kumaraswamy is contesting from Mandya where he is locked in a tough contest with Sumalatha, actor and wife of late Kannada actor and former Union Minister M.H. Ambareesh.
The Congress, which used to be a strong rival of JD-S in southern Karnataka, is now its ally.
In the last elections, the BJP had won six of the 14 seats going to the polls in the second phase.
In Maharashtra, where polling will be held in 10 seats tomorrow, the ruling BJP and Shiv Sena will have to defend four seats each, which they won last time.
This time, the NCP-Congress combine is giving them a tough fight by highlighting issues like farmers’ distress and unemployment.
Eight seats of politically-crucial Uttar Pradesh will also go the polls in the second phase. Of the total 80 seats, balloting has already been held on eight seats in the first phase in the state.
The BJP, which had won all the eight seats in the last elections, this time has to face a formidable challenge from the coalition of Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal.
The BJP is hoping for a repeat of its performance, relying on popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the impact of schemes such as Ujjawala, Ayushman Bharat on the ground as also the houses and toilets built in rural areas in the last five years.
Of the five seats of Assam going to the polls in the second phase, the BJP and Congress had won two seats each in 2014 and one had been won by AIUDF.
The BJP’s promise of Citizenship Amendment Bill has traction in Barak Valley seats of Silichar and Karimganj and the party will be hoping to improve its performance.
In Bihar, the BJP, in the last elections, had not won any of the five seats going to the polls tomorrow. Most of these seats are in Seemanchal region of the state which is a difficult territory for BJP due to high Muslim population.
However, in the last Lok Sabha polls, the BJP was contesting alone in Bihar while this time it has an alliance with JD(U).
In Chhattisgarh, where the BJP had last time won all the three seats going to polls tomorrow, has changed its candidates this time to beat the perceived anti-incumbency.
In West Bengal, the three seats going to the polls in the second phase are Jalpaiguri, Raiganj and Darjeeling.
Raigarh seat was among reasons for the CPI-M and Congress not being able to forge an alliance in the state as both wanted to contest from there. It is held by CPI-M’s Mohammad Salim.
In Darjeeling, where the BJP fielded Jaswant Singh and S.S. Ahluwalia in the previous two elections, the contest this time appears triangular.
The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) has struck an alliance with the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) faction led by Binay Tamang while the GNLF and the GJM led by Bimal Gurung are supporting the BJP. Congress candidate Shankar Malakar is an MLA from an assembly segment in the constituency.
In Odisha, the only seat BJP won in 2014 elections was Sundargarh, which will go to the polls in the second phase along with four other seats. The ruling BJD had won 20 of 21 seats in 2014 and the BJP is hoping to turn the tide in this election. It had 21.5 per cent votes in 2014.
In Jammu and Kashmir, union minister Jitendra Singh had emerged as a giant killer in 2014 by defeating senior Congress Ghulam Nabi Azad. He is facing Vikramaditya Singh, son of former union minister Karan Singh in this election. Former state Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah is in fray from Srinagar as National Conference candidate, with tacit support of the Congress.
(Prashant Sood can be contacted at [email protected])