India Lok Sabha election 2024 Phase 7: Who votes and what’s at stake?

Voters will decide the fate of 904 candidates from across 57 seats in the last phase of the Lok Sabha polls on June 1.

Indians will cast ballots in the last phase of the country’s staggered elections on June 1 to decide the fate of 904 candidates, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, concluding the largest electoral exercise in the world that kicked off on April 19.

Fifty-seven seats across eight states and federally-run territories (union territories) are up for grabs as voters will elect Members of Parliament (MPs) to the 18th Lok Sabha – the lower House of Parliament.

Voters have braved soaring temperatures to cast their ballots, with the first six phases – April 19April 26, May 7May 13, May 20 and May 25 – recording turnouts of 66.1, 66.7, 61.0, 67.3, 60.5 and 63.4 percent, respectively. At least 969 million people are registered to vote.

Will voters back the opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), which has centred its campaign on “saving the constitution” from what it alleges are attempts by Modi’s government to undermine fundamental tenets of Indian democracy – from freedom of the press to the rights of religious minorities – and on more equitable development in Asia’s third-largest economy?

Or will they repose faith in Modi’s leadership and the continuing rule of the governing National Democratic Alliance (NDA), at a time when the prime minister’s personal popularity remains high?

After Saturday’s vote, the wait won’t be long: All votes will be counted on June 4, when results will be declared.

INTERACTIVE_INDIA_ELECTION_7_PHASE_MAY31_2024_Alia

Who is voting in the seventh phase?

Registered voters in the following seven states and one union territory will cast their ballots for 57 seats:

Punjab: All 13 of the northwestern state’s seats

Himachal Pradesh: All four of the northern state’s seats

Jharkhand: Three of the eastern state’s 14 constituencies

Odisha: Six of the eastern state’s 21 constituencies

Uttar Pradesh: 13 of the northern state’s 80 constituencies

Bihar: Eight of the eastern state’s 40 constituencies

West Bengal: Nine of the eastern state’s 42 constituencies

Chandigarh: The union territory’s sole seat.

What are some of the key constituencies?

Varanasi, Ghazipur (Uttar Pradesh): Prime Minister Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking a third term from the ancient city of Varanasi in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Ajay Rai from the opposition Congress party is backed by the Samajwadi Party (SP), which is a major player in India’s most populous state. The BJP has dominated the constituency since the early 1990s, after the Hindu nationalist party started a movement to build a Ram Temple in place of the 16th-century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya city. The mosque was demolished in 1992 by a Hindu mob. Modi inaugurated the temple in January, which has featured in BJP’s election campaigning.

Another seat that has attracted media attention is Ghazipur, about 80km (48 miles) east of Varanasi, from where Afzal Ansari, the brother of don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari, is contesting on an SP ticket. Mukhtar Ansari died in jail in March. Paras Nath Rai of the BJP is challenging Afzal Ansari.

Patna Sahib, Pataliputra (Bihar): Senior BJP leader and former Federal Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is seeking re-election. The Congress party, which has forged an alliance with the regional Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), has fielded Anshul Avishek Kushwaha to challenge Prasad. Former Bollywood actor Shatrughan Sinha represented the constituency in 2009 and 2014 for the BJP. He has since left the party.

Misa Bharti, the daughter of RJD founder and former Chief Minister Lalu Yadav, will try again to beat Ram Kripal Yadav of the BJP in Pataliputra. Ram Kripal, won the 2014 and 2019 elections.

Mandi, Kangra and Hamirpur (Himachal Pradesh): Outspoken Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut of the BJP is challenging Vikramaditya Singh of the Congress party, which governs the Himalayan state, in Mandi. Ranaut is a staunch Modi supporter.

The constituency has long been a bastion of the Singh family. Vikramaditya’s late father Virbhadra Singh was a four-time chief minister of the state and represented the seat in parliament. However, in the 2014 and 2019 elections, the BJP’s Ram Swaroop Sharma won against Pratibha Singh, Vikramaditya’s mother. Pratibha won in 2021 bye-elections after Sharma’s death.

Anurag Thakur, minister for information and broadcasting in Modi’s cabinet, is seeking a fourth term from the family pocket borough of Hamirpur. His father Prem Kumar Dhumal is a former two-time chief minister of Himachal Pradesh. Satpal Raizada of the Congress party will have an uphill task to beat Thakur, who has won the past few elections by wide margins.

Khadoor Sahib, Jalandhar (Punjab): Khadoor Sahib is a stronghold of the regional Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which has won the seat a record nine times. But the entry of Sikh separatist leader Amritpal Singh into the race has shone a national spotlight on the constituency. Singh, who is contesting from jail, leads the Waris Punjab De party and backs the Khalistan movement, which calls for a separate Sikh state carved out of Indian Punjab. His main opponents are SAD candidate Virsa Singh Valtoha and Laljit Singh Bhullar from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which governs the state bordering Pakistan. A win for Amritpal would send alarm bells ringing in India’s security establishment, given Punjab’s history of separatist violence.

Charanjit Singh Channi, former chief minister and a senior leader of the Congress party, is contesting from Jalandhar. Sushil Kumar Rinku of the BJP and Pawan Kumar Tinu of the AAP are Channi’s main challengers. Though the seat has traditionally been a Congress stronghold, AAP’s Sushil Kumar Rinku won the 2023 by-elections after the previous sitting Congress MP died.

Diamond Harbour (West Bengal): Abhishek Banerjee, the influential nephew of the state’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, is contesting here from the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) party. He is widely seen as the chief minister’s political heir. BJP old-timer Abhijit Das is competing against Banerjee here.

Chandigarh (Union Territory): The Congress has fielded former minister Manish Tewari from Chandigarh. Tewari’s chances have been boosted after the backing of neighbouring Punjab state’s ruling AAP party. The BJP’s Sanjay Tandon is Tewari’s main challenger. Bollywood actor Kirron Kher, from the BJP, won the seat in 2014 and 2019 but is not contesting this time.

When does the voting start and end?

Voting will begin at 7am local time (01:30 GMT) and conclude at 6pm (12:30 GMT). Voters already in the queue by the time polls close will get to cast their ballots even if that means keeping polling stations open longer.

Which parties rule the states being polled in the seventh phase?

  • The BJP governs Uttar Pradesh outright and governs Bihar in an alliance
  • Odisha is governed by the NDA-aligned Biju Janata Dal (BJD)
  • Congress rules Himachal Pradesh
  • Punjab is governed by the INDIA alliance led by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)
  • Jharkhand is governed by the INDIA alliance led by Jharkhand Mukti Morcha
  • The Trinamool Congress party, a member of the INDIA alliance, has been governing West Bengal since 2011.
  • Chandigarh is a federally-run territory.

Who won these Lok Sabha seats in 2019?

  • In the last Lok Sabha elections, Congress, parties now affiliated with the INDIA alliance and then-affiliated with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), won 21 of the 57 seats to be decided on June 1.
  • The BJP and NDA-allied parties won 30 of these seats.
  • The BJD won four of the seats in Odisha while the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won two seats in Uttar Pradesh.

How much of India has voted so far?

The first six phases of the Lok Sabha elections have already decided the fate of 487 constituencies out of 543.

So far, voting has concluded for all seats in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Karnataka, Mizoram, Haryana, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Telangana, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, the Andaman and Nicobar islands; and the Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman, Diu, Ladakh Lakshadweep and Puducherry union territories.

Votes will be counted on June 4 and results will likely be announced the same day.

Source: Al Jazeera