Press Trust of India

Campaigning ends for third phase of Lok Sabha elections, high stakes for BJP

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Ahmedabad/Bengaluru: The high-octane campaign for the third phase of Lok Sabha elections that saw the BJP-led NDA and the INDIA bloc fiercely attacking each other on issues like reservations and sexual harassment charges against JD(S) leader Prajwal Revanna concluded on Sunday evening in 92 seats spread over 11 states and Union Territories.

The stakes are significant for the BJP in this round as the party had in 2019 won an overwhelming majority of these seats, including all in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, that will go to polls on May 7.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP charge, asking the Congress to give in writing that it will not hand over the quota for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes to Muslims.

The Congress and its allies accused the BJP of trying to tamper with the Constitution and do away with reservations. The principal opposition party, which has promised to remove the 50 per cent cap on reservations, also asked the BJP to clear its stance on the issue.

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge along with party leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra focused on issues of social justice, unemployment, “injustice” to farmers and alleged favourable treatment to select businessmen.

The BJP leaders targeted the Congress over wealth redistribution and inheritance tax issues and accused it of pursuing appeasement politics, while Rahul Gandhi reiterated Congress’ commitment to conduct a caste census and economic survey if voted to power.

Over 1300 candidates, including around 120 women, are in the fray. Among the bigwigs are Union ministers Amit Shah (Gandhinagar), Jyotiraditya Scindia (Guna),Mansukh Mandaviya (Porbandar), Parshottam Rupala (Rajkot), Pralhad Joshi (Dharwad) and SP Singh Baghel (Agra).

Former Madhya Pradesh chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Vidisha) and Digvijaya Singh (Rajgarh) have also returned to the Lok Sabha electoral fray this time. The fate of former Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai (Haveri) and Badruddin Ajmal (Dhubri) will also be decided on May 7 .

Several members of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family are also contesting in this phase in Uttar Pradesh.

Prime Minister Modi, who addressed two rallies in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday and later visited Ram temple in Ayodhya, lashed out at the “dynastic politics” of the Samajwadi Party and the Congress saying while the opposition alliance partners work only to benefit their own families, he is building a better future for the nation’s next generations.

Referring to himself and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, he said, “We don’t have children. We are working for your children.”

With the BJP bagging Surat unopposed, 25 seats in Prime Minister Modi’s home state of Gujarat will go to polls on May 7, besides 11 seats in Maharashtra, 10 seats in Uttar Pradesh, the remaining 14 of the 28 in Karnataka, seven in Chhattisgarh, eight in Madhya Pradesh, five in Bihar, four each in Assam and West Bengal, and all two in Goa.

The Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu (2 seats) will also go to polls in the third phase while the election in the Anatnag-Rajouri seat has been put off to the sixth phase due to logistic reasons.

Congress leaders including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have targeted the BJP over allegations of sexual harassment against Prajwal Revanna, Hassan MP and leader of the JD(S) – an ally of the BJP.

Hitting back, BJP leader Amit Shah and others questioned why the Congress government in Karnataka delayed the action against Revanna. The JD(S) joined the BJP-led NDA in September last year.

Prajwal Revanna is the grandson of former prime minister and JD(S) patriarch H D Deve Gowda and was the JD(S)-BJP alliance candidate from Hassan seat which went to polls on April 26. Prajwal’s father H D Revanna was arrested by Special Investigation Team on Saturday in a kidnapping case linked to sexual abuse allegations against Prajwal, soon after a court here rejected his anticipatory bail plea.

The BJP has attacked the Congress over the alleged failure to “contain anti-national activities”, incidents of ‘Love Jihad’ and ‘appeasement politics’.

The party leaders repeatedly referred to the bomb blast at a cafe here on March 1, the murder of 23-year-old Neha Hiremath on a college campus in Hubballi by Fayaz Khondunaik on April 18 and the raising of pro-Pakistan slogans in the corridors of Vidhana Soudha on February 27.

In Maharashtra, where 11 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats will go to polls, a riveting contest is on in Baramati between Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule and Sunetra Pawar, wife of the veteran leader’s estranged nephew and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.

In Gujarat, BJP’s Mukesh Dalal has already won from Surat unopposed after the nomination of Congress’ Nilesh Kumbhani was rejected over irregularities in the signature of proposers and other candidates withdrew.

On the last day of campaigning on Sunday, Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, BJP state unit president CR Paatil and minister Harsh Sanghavi participated in motorcycle rallies. During the campaign, the BJP had to face the ire of the Kshatriya community over a remark made by Rupala in Rajkot.

Aam Aadmi Party, which is contesting from Bhavnagar and Bharuch, held rallies by Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann. Sunita Kejriwal, the wife of jailed Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, also held a roadshow in Bharuch.

Numerous roadshows and rallies marked the hectic campaign in Uttar Pradesh’s 10 constituencies of Sambhal, Hathras (SC), Agra (SC), Fatehpur Sikri, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Etah, Budaun, Aonla and Bareilly.

The current phase is important for the Mulam Singh Yadav’s family, with Dimple Yadav aiming to retain the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat. Akshaya Yadav, son of Ram Gopal Yadav, is contesting from Firozabad, and Aditya Yadav is making his electoral debut from the Budaun Lok Sabha seat,

In his rallies, Shah attacked Rahul Gandhi, suggesting that his party will have to take out a ‘Congress Dhoondho Yatra’ after June 4.

BJP leaders alleged that the Congress and SP leaders did not attend the Ram Temple consecration ceremony in Ayodhya fearing it would alienate their vote bank.

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav extensively campaigned for his party candidates in the third phase and attacked the BJP over reservation and other issues.

The BJP is hoping for a clean sweep in Madhya Pradesh, which sends 29 members to Lok Sabha. At a rally held in Morena, Modi had claimed that then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi abolished the inheritance tax apparently to save the money, which he was supposed to get after Indira Gandhi’s death, from going to the government.

In an emotional reply, Priyanka hit back at the PM, saying her father inherited “martyrdom” and not wealth from Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated.

Voting will be held in Bihar’s Araria, Supaul, Jhanjharpur, Madhepura and Khagaria, all of which are currently held by the ruling NDA. The NDA’s heavy artillery was spearheaded by Prime Minister Modi, the biggest crowd-puller of the BJP-led coalition. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, an NDA partner who heads the JD(U), held rallies and roadshows in all the five constituencies.

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav campaigned intensively in all five seats, including Khagaria and Jhanjharpur, which his party is not contesting. CPI(M) bigwigs remained conspicuous by their absence in Khagaria, the lone seat the party is contesting in Bihar.

Despite heavy rains in Assam on the last day, both ruling and opposition parties engaged in a vigorous campaign in Dhubri, Barpeta, Kokrajhar (ST), and Guwahati.

The BJP campaign was focused on highlighting the various development schemes of both the central and state governments. The opposition parties focused on issues like citizenship, connectivity and unemployment.


Press Trust of India

Press Trust of India is lead news agency of India

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