- The 26 seats in Gujarat - all of which the BJP won in 2014 - and Kerala - whose 20 seats are a major base for the opposition Left and the Congress - are going to vote in this round. The BJP will be in trouble if it slips in Gujarat, the home turf of its two biggest leaders - Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. The Congress and the Left, which are contesting the state separately, must stop an incursion by the BJP if they want to prevail ultimately on May 23 Results Day.
- The other two big states voting in the phase are Maharashtra (14 of 48) and Karnataka (14 of 28). Major contests will unfold in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha and Bihar too. More than 30 of the constituencies going to vote have a high concentration of Muslims and Christians, making it a significant indicator of the minority mandate.
- Two highlights of these polls - Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's decision to fight from a second seat in Kerala's Wayanad, far removed from his regular constituency of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh and BJP chief Amit Shah's move to contest from Gandhinagar in Gujarat, replacing a disgruntled party veteran LK Advani, are on the agenda today. Mr Gandhi's pitch for Wayanad has been explained as a strategic decision to shore up votes for the Congress in the South and prove his appeal beyond the usual Hindi heartland. Amit Shah must maintain Mr Advani's vote share or increase it if he wants to emerge victorious in the prestige battle for the BJP citadel.
- Other heavyweights who are facing the voters today are Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, Congress veterans Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor and BJP street-fighters Anantkumar Hegde and Sambit Patra. The bare-knuckle match between Azam Khan (Samajwadi Party) and Jaya Prada (BJP) in western Uttar Pradesh's Rampur is also due today.
- With this phase, polling will be past the halfway point. The outcome in six states and 302 of the total 542 seats will have been sealed. Last time, the BJP had won 66 of the 117 seats going to vote today while the Congress and its alliance partners won 27, and the rest went to other opposition parties and independents.
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