A former Prime Minister, four Union Ministers, and several high-profile first-timers are among more than 1,600 candidates setting the stage for a number of riveting encounters in the second round of Lok Sabha elections today. Nearly 16 crore voters spread across 95 constituencies in 11 states and the union territory of Puducherry are casting their votes. The counting of votes for the seven-phase election, which ends on May 19, will be held on May 23.
Here are top 10 major battles in Phase 2 of Lok Sabha elections 2019:
Raj Babbar vs Rajkumar Chahar vs Shreebhagwan Sharma
Uttar Pradesh's Fatehpur Sikri will see a triangular battle between Congress's Raj Babbar, BJP's Rajkumar Chahar and BSP's Shreebhagwan Sharma, who is a two-time MLA from Debai assembly constituency of Bulandshahr. Residents in the historical city in western Uttar Pradesh say problems related to farmers, most of who grow potato and sugarcane, have dominated the issues during the campaigning in the constituency. The Congress has pinned its hopes on its state chief Raj Babbar, shifting the actor-turned-politician from Moradabad after he was said to be not keen on contesting from the seat. He had unsuccessfully contested from Fatehpur Sikri in 2009. The BJP has fielded a Jat leader and farmer's son, Rajkumar Chahar, denying ticket to its sitting MP Chaudhary Babulal and the BSP has picked in Shreebhagwan Sharma, also known as Guddu Pandit. Around 17 lakh voters are eligible to cast their vote in Fatehpur Sikri. The region is dominated by Thakur and Brahmin voters, and Jats, Scheduled Castes, Kushwahas and Muslims are also in significant numbers. In 2014, BJP's Babulal had polled over 4.26 lakh votes, 44 per cent of all votes cast that year. BSP's Seema Upadhyay had come second with 2.53 lakh votes, while Samajwadi Party's Rani Pakshalika Singh had got over 2.13 lakh votes. Mr Babbar had moved to Ghaziabad in 2014 general election and lost to BJP's V K Singh.
Hema Malini vs Kunwar Narendra Singh vs Mahesh Pathak
In the temple-town constituency of Mathura, Bollywood's "Dream Girl", Hema Malini, is seeking re-election after winning the seat in the 2014 general elections. The other candidates in the contest are Kunwar Narendra Singh of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and Mahesh Pathak of the Congress. Hema Malini had defeated RLD's sitting MP Jayant Chaudhary in 2014 by a huge margin of 3,30,743 votes in 2014. This year, she is pitted against RLD's Kunwar Narendra Singh. The 'mahagathbandhan' (grand alliance) of Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal has said that the Uttar Pradesh seat will witness an "outsider vs Brijwasi" battle as Hema Malini lives in Mumbai but the BJP MP has said she has a "divine connection" with Mathura.
Kanimozhi vs Tamilisai Soundararajan
Tamil Nadu's Thoothukudi will see a contest between the state BJP president Tamilisai Soundararajan and DMK's Rajya Sabha MP and party chief MK Stalin's sister Kanimozhi. "Thoothukudi is my choice because I have continuously worked there and know the situation there," Kanimozhi said. Ms Soundararajan said she was "keen to serve the people of Tuticorin" which he called "a neglected region".
Pon Radhakrishnan vs H Vasanthakumar
Tamil Nadu's Kanyakumari, the lone seat that the BJP won in 2014 in Tamil Nadu, will see a closely-watched contest this time between Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan and H Vasanthakumar of the Congress. Mr Radhakrishnan is hoping for a victory in the southern-most constituency of the country amidst backlash among many voters on issues such as lack of jobs, poor liquidity, shortage of drinking water and the controversial Enayam container terminal project, reports said. In 2014, Mr Radhakrishnan got 3.72 lakh votes while Mr Vasanthakumar was the runner up with 2.44 lakh votes.
Karti Chidambaram vs H Raja
Former finance minister P Chidambaram's son, Karti Chidambaram, BJP national secretary and party candidate H Raja and Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) candidate 'Kavignar' Snehan are among the top candidates fighting for Tamil Nadu's Sivaganga Lok Sabha constituency. Karti Chidambaram, who is facing trial in corruption cases, including the INX media money-laundering case, had unsuccessfully contested the Sivaganga seat in 2014 general election. The constituency was earlier represented by his father, P Chidambaram seven times but AIADMK swept the constituency in 2014.
Sadananda Gowda vs Krishna Byre Gowda
Karnataka's Bengaluru North constituency was meant to be contested by the Janata Dal Secular (JDS) under the seat sharing arrangement with coalition partner, the Congress. There was speculation that the ticket would go to former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda. When he chose Tumakuru instead, the JDS decided to hand the ticket over to the Congress. The Congress decided that state minister Krishna Byre Gowda should stand. He is up against Sadananda Gowda, Union Minister and former Chief Minister who is the sitting parliamentarian. Sadananda Gowda believes that the appeal of Prime Minister Modi will help him return to parliament. He told NDTV on the campaign trail: "I am more confident than in 2014. Modi's image has gone up like anything. And his performance has been accepted by the people of the constituency." This view was contested by Krishna Byre Gowda. "(Sadananda Gowda) has not been representing the constituency. Hence, I am hopeful the result will change. You can't fool all the people all the time," he said.
Nikhil Kumaraswamy vs Sumalatha Ambareesh
Mandya in Karnataka is turning out to be one of the most heated contests in the second phase of polling that could go down to the wire. On one side, there is the candidate for the Congress-Janata Dal Secular coalition, Nikhil Kumaraswamy. He is the son of Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and the grandson of former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, making this a prestige seat for the JDS. Taking him on is Sumalatha Ambareesh, wife of late superstar Ambareesh. She is officially supported by the BJP. And unofficially by several Congress leaders and party workers who were upset that the Congress allowed the JDS to contest the seat. There is a clear split among voters in Mandya, known as "Sakkare Naadu" (land of sugarcane) which has been the hotbed of Cauvery politics, and both candidates are banking on their family's political legacy.
Tejasvi Surya vs B K Hariprasad
Tejasvi Surya, a young lawyer and a rising star in the BJP, was named the party's candidate for the prestigious Bangalore South seat in Karnataka after much discussion and drama. For a while, there was even talk about Prime Minister Narendra Modi contesting from the seat besides his Varanasi seat in Uttar Pradesh. Mr Surya is up against seasoned Congress leader B K Hariprasad. Bangalore South was previously held by Union Minister Ananth Kumar, who died last year. Before Mr Surya's name was announced, it was widely expected that Mr Kumar's wife Tejaswini Ananth Kumar, will be the BJP candidate. Ananth Kumar had retained the seat ever since he defeated Congress's BK Hariprasad in 1999.
Deepa Dasmunsi vs Mohammed Salim vs Kanailal Agarwal vs Debasree Chaudhuri
Once a Congress stronghold, the Raiganj Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal is set to witness a four-cornered contest this time, with the candidates of major political parties in the state pitted against each other in a neck-and-neck battle. Since 1952, Congress candidates have won the seat 13 times including the two terms for party stalwart Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi in 1999 and 2004. His wife Deepa Dasmunsi also represented the constituency in parliament for a term. CPM's Mohammed Salim, who had won the seat in Uttar Dinajpur district in 2014 by a razor thin margin of 1,634 votes, seems to have an uphill task this time to retain the seat. In the 2014 general election, the CPM candidate got 3,17,515 votes and the Congress secured 3,15,881 votes. The BJP and the Trinamool came third and fourth bagging 2,03,131 and1,92,698 votes respectively. Raiganj had been the bone of contention between the Congress and the CPM in the seat-sharing talks in the state that did not materialise. The Trinamool, meanwhile, has fielded 64-year-old Kanaialal Agarwal, who was once a follower of Mr Dasmunsi. Raiganj Lok Sabha seat is one of the few seats in the state from where the party has never won. The BJP meanwhile is counting on Debasree Chaudhuri, a familiar face at the BJP state headquarters in Kolkata.
Sushil Kumar Shinde vs Prakash Ambedkar vs Jaisiddeshwar Swami
Former Union Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who is the Congress' candidate from Solapur Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra, 77, is pitted against Lingayat seer Jaisiddeshwar Swami of the BJP and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi's Prakash Ambedkar. Mr Shinde, who has said this would be his last election, is trying hard to stay relevant in electoral politics from his home turf and faces a stiff challenge from Mr Ambedkar and Jaisiddheshwar Mahaswamiji, who has a large following among Lingayats.
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