One last battle today for taking the crown

| | New Delhi
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One last battle today for taking the crown

Saturday, 01 June 2024 | Rajesh Kumar | New Delhi

Voting across the 57 parliamentary constituencies in seven States and Union Territory of Chandigarh in the seventh and last round of the Lok Sabha elections will be held on Saturday including Varanasi, from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a third consecutive term.

Saturday's voting will mark the end to the marathon polling process that began on April 19 and has already covered 486 Lok Sabha seats in 28 States and Union Territories. The Assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim also went to polls. Counting of votes will be taken up on June 4.  The Election Commission also called upon voters to turn out in large numbers and vote with responsibility and pride.

According to the poll body, over 10.06 crore eligible voters, including nearly 5.24 crore men, 4.82 crore women and 3,574 third gender electors are eligible to vote in this phase. Polling for the remaining 42 Assembly constituencies of Odisha and bypolls to six Assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh will also take place simultaneously.

The 75-day campaigning for the seven-phased Lok Sabha elections — the longest in Indian election history after the 1951-52 polls — ended on a combative note with the ruling BJP-led NDA and Opposition INDIA Bloc engaging in a bitter war of words with each of the seven phases of polling.

Besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Varanasi, UP), prominent candidates from the BJP are Union Minister Anurag Thakur (Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh), Ravi Shankar Prasad (Patna Sahib, Bihar) and Kangana Ranaut (Mandi, Himachal Pradesh); while from the Congress is Manish Tewari (Chandigarh), Vikramaditya Singh (Mandi) and Ajay Rai (Varanasi).

The campaigning for the last phase which ended Thursday evening saw BJP leaders led by Modi accusing the Congress of being corrupt, anti-Hindu and engaging in loot, appeasement and dynastic politics. The Opposition parties have been claiming that the BJP is anti-farmer, anti-youth and will change and scrap the Constitution if they win the elections.

The BJP based their campaign on 'Modi ki Guarantees' and the Prime Minister's personality, the Congress was betting on 'Nyay Patra' that talked about five 'nyays' and 25 guarantees targeting youth, farmers, workers and women. The Congress and its alliance  campaign centred around "saving" the Constitution and the country's democracy while claiming that the BJP's '400 paar' target was meant to get the mandate for rewriting the Constitution and end the quota regime.

Modi and the BJP countered the Opposition onslaught with the Prime Minister first seeking to link the Congress manifesto with the pre-partition Muslim League, redistribution of wealth. In the second phase of election, Modi sought to target Congress saying it was going to snatch 'mangalsutra' of women, to claim that Congress is going to redistribute wealth to Muslims.

For Rahul Gandhi, a copy of the Constitution, which he displayed at rallies, was a constant companion, while Mallikarjun Kharge warned people that if Modi is reelected, then there will be no more elections.  Opposition leaders claimed that their campaign had a resonance, especially among Dalits, tribals and OBCs.

Modi notched up a total of 206 public-outreach programmes, including rallies and roadshows, since the EC announced the poll schedule on March 16. The Prime Minister surpassed his nearly-145 public engagements on the stump during the 2019 polls by a big margin. The campaign period this time was 76 days, compared to the 68 days in the polls held five years ago.

Congress president Kharge alleged that Modi has mentioned his own name 758 times, spoke about mandir 421 times and mentioned Muslim, Pakistan and minorities 224 times but didn't speak about inflation and unemployment even once in the last fifteen days.

On Thursday evening, Modi headed to Kanyakumari where he is meditating till June 1 at the site associated with Swami Vivekananda. Modi had 206 public outreach programmes, including rallies and roadshows, since the Election Commission announced the Lok Sabha election schedule on March 16.

According to EC guidelines, television channels and news outlets will be able to run exit poll data and its results on June 1 after 6.30 pm.

Polling is scheduled in all 13 seats of Punjab and four of Himachal Pradesh, 13 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, nine in West Bengal, eight in Bihar, six in Odisha and three seats in Jharkhand besides Chandigarh. Polling for the remaining 42 Assembly constituencies of Odisha and bypolls to six Assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh will also take place simultaneously.

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