5 Down, 2 Phases Left In 2024 Lok Sabha Election. Focus Today On Delhi

The AAP contests four seats in Delhi - New Delhi, East Delhi, South Delhi, and West Delhi, while the Congress fights three - Chandni Chowk, North-East, and North-West.

5 Down, 2 Phases Left In 2024 Lok Sabha Election. Focus Today On Delhi
New Delhi:

The sixth and penultimate phase of polling for the 2024 Lok Sabha election begins this morning with voting in 58 seats across six states and two union territories, including Jammu and Kashmir's Anantnag, which was to vote in the third phase but will do so today after adverse weather conditions on May 7.

The seat has flipped between Farooq and Omar Abdullah's National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti's PDP over the last five elections.

The focus, though, will be on the national capital, where the BJP faces an INDIA bloc challenge - the AAP and Congress have united to stop the former from claiming a hat-trick of clean sweeps. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party won all seven in 2014 and 2019.

BJP Vs Congress + AAP In Delhi

The AAP contests four seats - New Delhi, East Delhi, South Delhi, and West Delhi. The Congress has fielded candidates in three - Chandni Chowk, North-East, and North-West. 

In a curious twist the AAP has dominated Assembly elections in Delhi since 2013, but the BJP has been the top dog in Lok Sabha polls. In 2019, for example, the BJP had a vote share of nearly 57 per cent and the AAP just 18 per cent. A year later, in the 2020 state election, the AAP thumped its rival by winning 62 of 70 seats and a vote share of nearly 54 per cent.

While winning (or losing) one or all of seven seats is unlikely to make or break the election for either the ruling BJP or opposition parties, claiming Delhi is a prestige issue.

Among the big names contesting in Delhi this time is the BJP's Bansuri Swaraj, who is the late former Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj's daughter. She is contesting the New Delhi seat against the AAP's Somnath Bharti. This seat was claimed by the BJP's Meenakshi Lekhi in 2014 and 2019, and the Congress' Ajay Maken for the two prior elections.

In North-East Delhi, meanwhile, the BJP's Manoj Tiwari is looking for a hat-trick of wins of his own, but must overcome the not insignificant challenge of Kanhaiya Kumar, the Congress' fiery youth leader from the city's Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Eight Seats In Bengal, Bihar

Elsewhere in the country, there are eight seats voting in Bengal, including Tamluk and Kanthi. These are in the family stronghold of Suvendhu Adhikari, who was Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's right-hand man till he quit - amid huge controversy - to join the BJP.

Since then, Mr Adhikari and Ms Banerjee have become implacable rivals, even going head-to-head for the Nandigram Assembly constituency in the 2021 state election that the Trinamool dominated. However, in a statement result from the seat that catapulted Ms Banerjee to power he defeated her, forcing her into a by-poll to remain Chief Minister.

Tamluk is also significant because the BJP has fielded former Calcutta High Court judge Abhijit Ganguly from here, who has lost no time in needling the Trinamool boss. He faces the ruling party's youth wing leader - Debangshu Bhattacharya. Meanwhile, in Kanthi the BJP's Soumendu Adhikari - Mr Adhikari's brother - faces the Trinamool's Uttam Barik.

The BJP won five of these seats last time. The Trinamool got three.

Eight seats in Bihar are also voting in this phase. Bihar was dominated by the BJP and the party-led NDA in the last election. That alliance won 39 of the state's 40 seats. Of the seats voting today, last time the BJP got four and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JDU got three.

The eighth was won by the Lok Janshakti Party. 

All three are allied again now after a headline-grabbing U-turn by Nitish Kumar - who helped found the INDIA bloc - and the LJP of Chirag Paswan eased to the BJP's side.

14 Seats Voting In BJP Stronghold Of UP

Uttar Pradesh, which like Bengal will vote in every phase of this election, sends 14 seats to the polling booths in this round. UP is a politically key state since it has 80 Lok Sabha seats.

The BJP has dominated electoral politics here since the 2017 Assembly election and claimed 62 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll (64 including two won by ally Apna Dal (S)), and will want another big win to help hit its target of 'abki baar, 400 paar'.

In 2019 the BJP secured nine of these 14 seats and the Bahujan Samaj Party - not an INDIA member - got four. The Samajwadi Party, which is part of bloc, picked up the odd seat.

All 14 seats are in western UP and include the temple town of Prayagraj and jailed SP leader Aam Khan's Azamgarh bastion that is now with the BJP. It was held by SP patriarch Mulayam Yadav in 2014 and his son Akhilesh Yadav in 2019. However, in the 2022 by-poll - triggered after Akhilesh Yadav quit to retain an Assembly seat - it was picked up by the BJP.

Seats polling in UP today also includes Phulpur, where a Akhilesh Yadav-Rahul Gandhi rally saw chaos because the SP and Congress' supporters were overeager to see their leaders.

Odisha's Six 

Six seats are voting, and the big battles are for capital Bhubaneshwar, Sambalpur and Puri.

In Sambalpur the BJD's Pranab Prakash Das faces off against a BJP heavyweight - Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who is also being seen as a potential chief ministerial candidate in the Assembly election that is happening simultaneously. This is Mr Pradhan's first Lok Sabha election since 2009. The seat was won by the BJP's Nitesh Deb in 2019.

Over in Puri, the BJP's fiery spokesperson, Sambit Patra is hoping to do what he could not last year. In 2019 Mr Patra lost this seat to the BJD's Pinaki Mishra by a one per cent margin.

The state capital sees a three-way fight - Aparajita Sarangi of the BJP (and the incumbent) vs the BJD's Manmath Routray vs the Congress' Yasir Nawaz.

Haryana Votes Fully

Haryana's 10 seats will all vote today. The math is simple for the BJP - win all of them.

The saffron party claimed all 10 seats in the 2019 election and will expect nothing less this time, particularly since the state is part of its Hindi heartland stronghold.

The list of big names here begins with former Chief Minister ML Khattar, who is contesting the Karnal seat against Divyanshu Budhiraja from of the Congress. 

For Kurukshetra the BJP has fielded Naveen Jindal against the AAP's Sushil Gupta; a third candidate in the form of the INLD's Abhay Singh Chautala adds a touch of the unknown. There is some Bollywood glamour in Gurgaon, where the Congress has fielded former actor Raj Babbar.

Haryana is another state where the INDIA bloc is present, with the Congress and AAP sharing seats.

Looking To 7th Phase

The seventh and final phase of the election is on June 1. 

The (very) big focus then will be on Varanasi in UP, which is where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is contesting.

The results for the election will be out on June 4.