The Election Commissioner has set up over 1.13 lakh polling stations, and voting will take place between 7 am and 6 pm in most constituencies. As many as 979 candidates will take a swipe at victory in an electoral contest that the BJP hopes will help bring Prime Minister Narendra Modi back to power in the face of a resurgent opposition.
All eyes are on Uttar Pradesh's Phulpur and Gorakhpur seats, which were captured by the Bahujan Samaj Party-Samajwadi Party combine in last year's bypolls despite its reputation as BJP strongholds. Akhilesh Yadav is contesting from Azamgarh, a Samajwadi Party stronghold, against the BJP's Dinesh Lal Yadav "Nirahua". His father, party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, had won the seat in 2014.
Delhi's seven seats will witness a three-cornered battle between the BJP, Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress, with ex-Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Union Minister Harshvardhan, former Olympian boxer Vijender Singh and cricketer-turned-politician Gautam Gambhir among the 164 candidates in the mix. Security has been heightened in Delhi with the deployment of over 60,000 personnel.
The ruling Trinamool Congress, BJP, the Congress and Left Front will battle for supremacy in West Bengal's Tamluk, Kanthi, Ghatal, Medinipur, Bankura, Bishnupur, Purulia and Jhargram constituencies. All the 15,428 polling stations in the state will be manned solely by central paramilitary forces to ensure free-and-fair voting in a state infamous for poll-related violence.
Another keenly watched contest will be between Congress leader Digvijaya Singh and the BJP's Pragya Thakur - an accused in the Malegaon blasts case - in Bhopal. Although Digvijaya Singh is a popular leader in Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal has been a BJP stronghold since 1989 and therefore considered an uphill task for any other party.
(With inputs from PTI)
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