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Key seats and candidates, tough contests in 92 seats

With the Indian summer sizzling with relentless heatwaves, the high-voltage Lok Sabha elections are hotting up as well as they enter May, when four of the seven phases are scheduled to be held.

After the first two phases on April 19 and 26, the third phase is scheduled for May 7, when 92 Lok Sabha constituencies will vote to select their parliament lower house representatives. With these, 282 of the 543 seats will have been covered, crossing the halfway mark.

In Gujarat, 25 constituencies will vote in the third phase (one has been won by BJP uncontested), while Karnataka will finish voting for the remaining 14 of its 28 seats after covering the first half on April 26.

Assam will be done as well, as the remaining four seats of its total 14 go to polls. The state has covered five each in the first two phases. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal, all of which are voting in seven phases, will cover five, 10, and four seats, respectively.

Seven of Chhattisgarh’s 11 constituencies will also go to polls on May 7, as the state gets done with the general elections for this time. Voters in eight constituencies in Madhya Pradesh and 11 in Maharashtra will also exercise their franchise.

Goa will vote for both of its Lok Sabha seats and so will Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.

Here’s a round-up of what to expect in the third phase of Lok Sabha elections 2024, the major players, and the poll schedule.

GUJARAT

Constituencies going to polls: 25 of 26 (Kachchh, Banaskantha, Patan, Mahesana, Sabarkantha, Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad East, Ahmedabad West, Surendranagar, Rajkot, Porbandar, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Amreli, Bhavnagar, Anand, Kheda, Panchmahal, Dahod, Vadodara, Chhota Udaipur, Bharuch, Bardoli, Navsari, Valsad; BJP has won Surat uncontested)

Gujarat will vote for 25 of its 26 seats on May 7. One seat, Surat, has been won by BJP uncontested after all candidates withdrew and the Congress candidate’s nomination was rejection. BJP has been winning all 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat for two terms now — 2014 and 2019. In 2024, the party not only wants to repeat its performance but win by a margin of 5 lakh in all seats.

The 2024 polls were expected to be a cakewalk for BJP, but ever since the Rajkot candidate, Parshottam Rupala, drew the anger of the Kshatriya community, the party has been facing the heat in the Kshatriya-dominated seats in Saurashtra (Porbandar, Bhavnagar, Rajkot, Surendranagar).

In Rajkot, Congress has fielded its veteran leader and former LOP, Paresh Dhanani, who has an edge over Rupala as a Leuva Patel leader, as the community dominates the seat. Besides, Dhanani has a history of defeating Rupala in the 2002 Assembly polls at the peak of “Modi wave” in Gujarat.

Bharuch and Bhavnagar — the two seats where AAP candidates are in the fray as part of INDIA Bloc —are set to witness a strong fight. In Bhavnagar, both anti-incumbency and Kshatriya anger can swing the electorate against the BJP, while in Bharuch, the INDIA bloc might have an edge over BJP if it can bag Muslim and tribal votes.

In Banaskantha, North Gujarat, the only seat where both parties have fielded women candidates, Congress veteran and two-time MLA Geniben Thakor will be facing BJP’s new face Rekha Chaudhary. Geniben, a Thakor community (OBC) leader, has won the Assembly polls from Vav, which comes within Banaskantha. Chaudhary is one of the new candidates that BJP has fielded this year. Wife of Morbi BJP district president, Rekhaben’s candidature was initially not accepted by local party seniors.

In Valsad, Congress youth leader and MLA Anant Patel will take on BJP candidate and sitting MP KC Patel. Anant Patel has seen meteoric rise over the past two years, ever since he led the protest against the Vedanta project in Navsari, his Assembly seat, and forced the ruling BJP to halt the project indefinitely. He won the seat with a margin of over 50,000 votes, the only Congress candidate to win big in the 2022 state polls.

KARNATAKA

Constituencies going to polls: 14 of 28 (Chikkodi, Belgaum, Bagalkot, Bijapur, Gulbarga, Raichur, Bidar, Koppal, Bellary, Haveri, Dharwad, Uttara Kannada, Davanagere, Shimoga)

In all 14 constituencies, the major castes deciding the elections are Lingayats, OBCs, Dalits, and Muslims. As Lingayats dominate all 14, they will play the most important role.

Though Modi-versus-Siddaramaiah and Centre-versus-state issues, including allotment of funds for droughts, are playing a major role in the polls, the saffron party has been plagued by infighting. While Siddaramaiah has the support of OBCs, Dalits, and Muslims, the BJP has been eyeing Hindutva votes citing Hubli’s Neha murder case.

The constituencies to watch out for will be Kalaburagi (Gulbarga), Shivamogga, and Dharwad where various other factors are at play than Modi’s Hindutva and Siddaramaiah’s guarantee schemes.

In Kalaburagi, the home district of AICC president Mallikarjuna Kharge, his son-in-law, Radhakrishna Doddamani, is contesting as the Congress candidate, while the sitting MP, Umesh Jadhav, is the BJP candidate.

Kharge has already participated in campaign meetings twice and has been playing the emotional card. “If you remember that I have done something good for Karnataka and Kalaburagi, come and vote; or come to see my body after death,” he said recently.

Kharge was instrumental in winning six of the eight Assembly constituencies under Kalaburagi Lok Sabha constituency in last year’s Assembly elections. So, this constituency will be one to watch.

Shivamogga, on the other hand, is the prestige area of two former chief minister families — BS Yeddyurappa and S Bangarappa. Their respective children — BJP’s BY Raghavendra and Congress’s Geeta Shivrajkumar — are opponents here. Geetha’s husband Shivarajkumar is a popular actor in Kannada cinema. Hence, the cinema world is believed to be supporting Geetha.

Interestingly, BJP’s former state president and former Deputy CM KS Eshwarappa has also entered the fray as a rebel candidate, making it a triangular fight.

In Dharwad, the fight is a direct one between the BJP and the Congress. While BJP’s Pralhad Joshi has won the seat four times in a row and is contesting for the fifth time, Congress’s Vinod Asooty is contesting the Lok Sabha elections for the first time.

The case of Neha Hiremath, a student of Hubli’s BVB College who was murdered by a Muslim youth, is likely to be used as a “pawn” in this political chess. It may help BJP gather Hindutva votes.

MAHARASHTRA

Constituencies going to polls: 11 of 48 (Raigad, Baramati, Osmanabad, Latur, Solapur, Madha, Sangli, Satara, Ratnagiri–Sindhudurg, Kolhapur, Hatkanangle)

The fate of several high-profile candidates will be decided across Maharashtra’s 11 constituencies that go to polls in the third phase. Under test would also be the electoral coordination between the allies of the state’s major political formations — the ruling Mahayuti of the BJP and the Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar-led factions of the Shiv Sena and the NCP, respectively, and the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) of the Congress and the Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray-led factions of the NCP and the Shiv Sena, respectively.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s crude “bhatakti aatma” (wandering spirit) jibe at NCP founder Sharad Pawar has also given the MVA partners added ammunition to fire at its Mahayuti rivals since constituencies such as Baramati, Madha and Satara, which will vote in the third phase, are Sharad Pawar’s strongholds.

The third phase of polling will also settle the question of who between the NCP’s warring Pawars — party founder Sharad or nephew Ajit — holds greater electoral sway after the split of their party, as the senior Pawar’s daughter and incumbent Baramati MP, Supriya Sule, tries to retain hold over her family stronghold against Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra Pawar.

Among other high profile candidates in the fray are also former Raigad MP and Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate Anant Geete who is trying to wrest the constituency from incumbent MP Sunil Tatkare of Ajit Pawar’s NCP faction, BJP’s Udayanraje Bhonsle, the 13th direct descendant of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji, who is pitted against Shashikant Shinde of Sharad Pawar’s NCP faction in Satara and the Congress’s Shahu Chhatrapati Maharaj, the great grandson of Rajarshi Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur, who faces Sanjay Mandlik of the Shiv Sena’s Eknath Shinde faction in the Kolhapur constituency.

Besides warring members of Sharad Pawar’s family, the daughter and grandson of two other former Maharashtra chief ministers are also in the fray in this phase of polling. Praniti Shinde, daughter of former CM Sushilkumar Shinde, is pitted against the BJP’s Ram Satpute in her family stronghold of Solapur, while Vishal Patil, grandson of former CM, late Vasantdada Patil, has rebelled against the Congress to contest as an independent candidate from the Sangli constituency against Shiv Sena (UBT)’s Chandrahar Patil and the BJP’s Sanjaykaka Patil.

UTTAR PRADESH

Constituencies going to polls: 10 of 80 (Sambhal, Hathras, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Etah, Badaun, Bareilly, Aonla)

After a dismal Lok Sabha performance for the past two general elections when Samajwadi Party managed to win only a handful of seats, the third phase of the ongoing elections will witness a contest where the family members of former UP chief minister and SP chief, Akhilesh Yadav, will contest to save their home turf.

Of the 10 seats going to polls in the third phase, key contests will be seen in Mainpuri where Akhilesh’s wife Dimple Yadav will be contesting, and Badaun, where Aditya Yadav, Akhilesh’s cousin and son of Shivpal Singh Yadav, will contest.

The battle for Mainpuri is also interesting because in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the constituency was represented by Akhilesh’s father and SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav. This time, the Yadav family has decided to make Dimple Yadav contest from the family bastion.

The third phase will also witness Akshay Yadav, another of Akhilesh’s cousins and son of Dr Ram Gopal Yadav, contesting from Firozabad. Akshay represented the constituency in the 2014 general elections but lost to the BJP in 2019. The constituency is also interesting because Ram Gopal Yadav has been a mentor to Akhilesh and his most vocal supporter within the Yadav family.

The third phase is also a high-stakes battle for the BJP, which in 2019 had won 8 of the 10 seats going to polls in this phase. With a three-cornered contest among BJP, SP, and BSP in the third phase, BJP is hopeful that a division of anti-BJP votes between the SP and the BSP will help the party win the majority of the seats in the third phase.

The electoral battle in Bareilly is also a test for the BJP, which has dropped Union minister Santosh Gangwar from the constituency and replaced him with Chatrapal Gangwar, revenue minister in the Uttar Pradesh government till 2022.

CHHATTISGARH

Constituencies going to polls: 7 of 11 (Surguja, Raigarh, Janjgir-Champa, Korba, Bilaspur, Durg, and Raipur)

The third phase of polling would conclude the Lok Sabha polls across Chhattisgarh. Of the state’s seven constituencies going to polls in this phase, the BJP currently holds all but one — Korba. Given the BJP’s unexpected and comprehensive victory in last year’s state Assembly polls, the party has been hoping to wrest all seven seats this time.

However, the Congress, which had suffered heavy losses in the Assembly segments that fall under these seven parliamentary seats in the December polls, has seemingly recovered some ground. Local political observers claim the party has chosen strong candidates and has run a well-oiled campaign after an internal analysis of the Assembly poll defeat.

Of particular interest would be the Korba, Surguja, Bilaspur and Raigarh constituencies. In Korba, incumbent Congress MP Jyotsna Mahant, wife of Charandas Mahant, Congress’s leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, is up against BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Saroj Pandey.

In Surguja, the Congress has fielded youth leader Shashi Singh against the BJP’s Chintamani Maharaj after party stalwart and titular head of the Surguja royal family, former deputy chief minister TS Singh Deo, opted out of the poll race.

In the Raigarh constituency, a BJP bastion since 1999, the saffron party has fielded Radheshyam Rathia after benching incumbent MP Gomtee Sai. Rathia will face the Congress’s Menka Devi Singh, a member of the erstwhile Sarangarh royal family.

The Bilaspur seat, a saffron citadel since 1996, is also witnessing a keen contest between the BJP’s Tokhan Sahu and Congress’s Devendra Yadav. Yadav, who became the youngest Mayor of Bhilai town in 2016 merely at 26, has emerged as a popular youth and backward caste leader in the state following his consecutive Assembly poll wins from the Bhilai Nagar Assembly seat in 2018 and 2023.

During a Lok Sabha poll campaign in Bilaspur, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi famously invited Yadav to stand beside him on stage and told his massive audience, “I know this boy and I know he will always work honestly for you all. I want you all to ensure he reaches the Lok Sabha.”

MADHYA PRADESH

Constituencies going to polls: 8 of 29 (Morena, Bhind, Gwalior, Guna, Sagar, Vidisha, Bhopal, and Rajgarh)

The third phase of polling in eight of MP’s 29 Lok Sabha constituencies will witness the biggest names in the state’s politics trying to secure electoral triumphs; some in almost one-sided contests and others against mounting odds.

Former chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan of the BJP and Digvijaya Singh of the Congress are contesting the polls from their respective home turfs of Vidisha and Rajgarh. For Chouhan, the state’s longest serving CM who was replaced with Mohan Yadav by his party leadership after the BJP’s surprise Assembly poll win last December, the contest in Vidisha is touted to be a cakewalk.

Vidisha is seen amongst the safest seats for the BJP in the state and has previously elected to the Lok Sabha party stalwarts Atal Behari Vajpayee and Sushma Swaraj. Chouhan, before he became the state’s CM in 2005, had been Vidisha’s MP for five consecutive terms. He is pitted against Pratap Bhanu Sharma, the only Congress leader to have wrested the Vidisha constituency – in 1980 and 1984 – ever since it was carved in 1967, but his past electoral glory has long been forgotten, while his BJP rival now is almost a cult figure in the state’s politics.

The contest in Rajgarh is between Singh and the BJP’s two-term incumbent MP Rodmal Nagar. It marks Singh’s return to the Rajgarh constituency as a Lok Sabha candidate after over three decades — he had last won from here in 1991 — and five years since his humiliating defeat from the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat against BJP’s Pragya Thakur. The two-term former CM has been running a hyper-local campaign to wrest Rajgarh; relying on a padyatra to reconnect with his voters.

Also in the fray in this phase of polling is Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, hoping to avenge his shock defeat from Guna in the last Lok Sabha polls, but as a candidate of the very party which routed him from his family’s pocketborough in 2019 — the BJP. The saffron party denied a ticket to KP Singh Yadav, who emerged as a giant killer in 2019 by becoming the only person to have defeated a Scindia in Guna. Scindia is pitted against Rao Yadvendra Singh, a former BJP leader who is now in Congress.

An interesting contest is also expected in Bhind, where the Congress is hoping that its candidate, prominent Dalit leader and Bhander MLA Phool Singh Baraiya, will make history by wresting the seat for the first time since 1984. Baraiya’s rival is BJP’s incumbent MP Sandhya Rai.

The BJP appears comfortably placed to retain its bastions of Bhopal and Sagar. Like Bhind, the Congress’s last Lok Sabha victory from Bhopal was back in 1984, and its current candidate, Arun Shrivastava, is a largely unknown political lightweight who has been fielded against former mayor and prominent local BJP leader Alok Sharma, a close aide of Shivraj Chouhan.

The BJP has held the Sagar seat since 1996 and it is touted to continue that winning streak with its current candidate Lata Wankhede, who faces Guddu Raja Bundela of the Congress.

BIHAR

Constituencies going to polls: 5 of 40 (Jhanjarpur, Supaul, Araria, Madhepura, Khagaria)

In the third phase of elections in Bihar, NDA takes centre stage, as out of the five Lok Sabha seats going to polls, three were won by JDU in 2019 and one each by LJP and BJP.

While JDU has played it safe by repeating most of its winning candidates from the 2019 polls, LJP has played a gamble by replacing Choudhary Mehboob Ali Kaiser from Khagaria constituency, creating a rift within the party. The BJP, too, has played it safe, as the party decided to support Pradeep Kumar Singh who won the seat in 2019 polls.

WEST BENGAL

Constituencies going to polls: 4 of 42 (Maldaha Uttar, Maldaha Dakshin, Jangipur, Murshidabad)

The stage is set for a triangular contest in the four minority-dominated constituencies of West Bengal going to polls in the third phase.

The Congress and the CPI(M), after forging an alliance, are hopeful of their revival in what was once a stronghold of India’s Grand Old Party.

The ruling TMC, on the other hand, is trying to retain its new-found dominance in the area by once again securing overwhelming support of the minorities by raking up the CAA-NRC issues, BJP’s alleged divisive politics, and its various welfare schemes.

The Congress-CPI(M) alliance is trying hard to make a dent in the TMC’s domination by making alleged corruption in the Mamata Banerjee government their main poll-plank.

The CPI(M) particularly is pinning hope on Murshidabad to open its account in the parliament this time after failing to win a single seat in 2019. The party has fielded its state chief Mohammed Salim.

The BJP, on the other hand, is banking on a vertical split in minority votes between the Congress-CPI(M) alliance and the TMC and consolidation of Hindu votes in its favour.

ASSAM

Constituencies going to polls: 4 of 14 (Guwahati, Barpeta, Dhubri, Kokrajhar)

Four seats in Assam will go to poll in the third and final phase. These constituencies in the Lower-Assam division of the state have a large chunk of minority votes, prompting the BJP to allot three of the four seats to its allies.

The BJP has backed the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) candidates in Barpeta and Dhubri and the United People’s Party Liberal nominee in Kokrajhar. The key issues in these constituencies are CAA, delimitation, illegal migrants, and indigenous identity.

Delimitation has changed the demographic profile of some of these constituencies. Hindus have now become a majority in Barpeta, which used to be a minority-dominated seat.

Opposition unity has seen a crack in Barpeta with INDIA bloc partners CPI(M) and the Congress vying for the seats along with the BJP.

GOA

Constituencies going to polls: 2 of 2 (North Goa, South Goa)

In Goa, all eyes are on the North Goa constituency where Union minister and five-time BJP MP Shripad Naik is pitted against senior Congress leader and Goa’s former Deputy CM Ramakant Khalap.

The Congress has focused on the lack of employment opportunities during its poll campaign, particularly hitting out at the BJP for its failure to provide job avenues to the local youth at the Manohar International Airport in Mopa, Pernem. On the other hand, the BJP has sought votes on the development projects undertaken across the state.

The North Goa seat has been a bastion of the ruling BJP since 1999 and has been represented by Naik for five consecutive terms. Of the 20 Assembly seats under North Goa constituency, only one is with the Congress, while 19 are with the BJP.

DADRA AND NAGAR HAVELI AND DAMAN AND DIU

Constituencies going to polls: 2 of 2 (Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu)

In Dadra and Nagar Haveli, the BJP has fielded sitting MP Kalaban Delkar, who first got elected in the 2021 bypoll as the Shiv Sena candidate after the demise of her husband and MP Mohan Delkar. She had defeated BJP’s Mahesh Gavit by nearly 51,000 votes. In these elections, Delkar is pitted against Ajit Ramji Mahla of the Congress.

In Daman and Diu, the BJP has fielded its three-time sitting MP Lalubhai Babubhai Patel who won the last elections by defeating Ketan Dayabhai Patel of the Congress. The old political rivals are once again engaged in a face-off in the constituency considered a BJP stronghold.