Campaigning ends for phase 2 of Lok Sabha polls in 89 seats

New Delhi: The curtains came down Wednesday evening on a high-voltage campaigning for the second phase of Lok Sabha polls in 89 seats across 13 states on April 26.

Staggered over seven stages, the first phase of the elections held last Friday for 102 seats across 21 states and Union territories saw a voter turnout of around 65.5 per cent.

Polling is scheduled in all 20 seats of Kerala, 14 of the 28 seats in Karnataka, 13 seats in Rajasthan, 8 seats each in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, 7 seats in Madhya Pradesh, 5 seats each in Assam and Bihar, 3 seats each in Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, and 1 seat each in Manipur, Tripura and Jammu and Kashmir.

Among the prominent contestants are Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar (Thiruvananthapuram), BJP’s Tejasvi Surya (Karnataka), Hema Malini and Arun Govil (both Uttar Pradesh), Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi (Wayanad) and Shashi Tharoor (Thiruvananthapuram), Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar’s brother DK Suresh (Cong), former Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy (JDS).

During the campaigning, Prime Minister Narendra kicked up a row on Sunday while addressing a rally in Rajasthan’s Banswara.

Slamming the Congress manifesto, he alleged that the opposition party was planning to give people’s hard-earned money and valuables to “infiltrators” and “those who have more children” and referred to former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s speech in 2006 to contend he had said that Muslims have the “first claim” on the country’s resources.

The Congress was quick to react, saying that after facing “disappointment” in the first phase of Lok Sabha polls, the prime minister was resorting to “lies” and “hate speech” to divert people from the real issues.

The party also urged the Election Commission to take action against Modi for his remarks, alleging they were ‘divisive’, ‘malicious’ and targeted a particular religious community.

The next day, Modi again accused the Congress of planning to redistribute people’s property if it is voted to power, but stopped short of saying that the wealth would go to Muslims.

Addressing a rally in Aligarh, a western Uttar Pradesh constituency with a sizeable Muslim population, Modi further said he wanted to “alert” people about the “intentions” of the Congress and the opposition INDIA bloc.

As campaigning was drawing to a close, remarks by Congress leader Sam Pitroda on inheritance tax gave enough fodder to Modi and other BJP leaders to launch an all-out attack on the issue of “wealth redistribution”.

In his poll rallies on Wednesday, Modi framed Pitroda’s comments in his wider onslaught against the Congress, asserting that they have exposed its hidden agenda and that the party has become so removed from the country’s social and family values that it wants to legally rob people of their assets and lifelong savings they want to bequeath to their children.

The Congress swung into damage control, distancing itself from the comments of the US-based president of its overseas wing.

After Friday’s phase, polling will be over in Kerala, Rajasthan and Tripura. In the first phase on April 19, polling was completed in all seats of Tamil Nadu (39), Uttarakhand (5), Arunachal Pradesh (2), Meghalaya (2), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (1), Mizoram (1), Nagaland (1), Puducherry (1), Sikkim (1) and Lakshadweep (1).

In 2019, the NDA had won 56 of these 89 seats and the UPA 24. Six of these seats have been redrawn as part of the delimitation exercise.

Authorities in these constituencies have been directed to ensure that no outsider remains in these areas 48 hours before polling. Any form of electioneering, public meetings, press conferences by political parties, interviews and panel discussions in electronic or print media have been strictly prohibited.

The second phase of polling for 94 seats in 12 states and Union territories will be held on May 7.