Campaigning ends for first phase of Lok Sabha polls in 102 seats

Top leaders of NDA and INDIA bloc made last-gasp effort to woo voters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to supporters upon his arrival for a public meeting, ahead of Lok Sabha elections, in Agartala | PTI Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to supporters upon his arrival for a public meeting, ahead of Lok Sabha elections, in Agartala | PTI

Campaigning ended Wednesday evening for 102 Lok Sabha seats across 21 states and Union territories which will go to polls in the first phase on April 19 with top leaders of the BJP-led NDA and the opposition INDIA bloc making a last-gasp effort to woo voters.

Leading the charge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took whirlwind tours of various constituencies in the past few days, addressing rallies and holding roadshows, and asserting that he went to people with hope in 2014, trust in 2019 and guarantee in 2024. Many times he said there is "Modi's guarantee across the country and I am giving the guarantee of fulfilling all these guarantees".

Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and several of their cabinet colleagues, leaders of the Congress such as Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi, and other parties also canvassed for their candidates.

The BJP has come out all guns blazing at the INDIA bloc over corruption, dynasty politics and insulting the Constitution and Hinduism.

The Opposition leaders, in turn, have attacked the government over electoral bonds, alleged misuse of agencies, inflation and unemployment among other issues.

The BJP in its manifesto prioritised development and welfare while shunning populist measures and contentious issues like the NRC.

Named "Modi ki Guarantee", the manifesto largely built on the government's existing welfare schemes targeted at different sections of society, while reiterating the BJP's commitment to roll out one-nation-one-election and Uniform Civil Code, two issues mentioned in its 2019 manifesto too.

In its 45-page manifesto titled 'Nyay Patra', the Congress focussed on five "pillars of justice" and 25 guarantees under them.

Right to apprenticeship, a legal guarantee for MSP, passing a constitutional amendment to raise the 50 per cent cap on reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs, a nation-wide caste census and scrapping of Agnipath scheme are among the promises made by the party in the manifesto.

Modi, however, lambasted the Congress manifesto saying it carries the imprint of the Muslim League with "every page reeking of breaking India".

Eight Union ministers - Nitin Gadkari, Kiren Rijiju, Sarbanada Sonowal, Sanjeev Baliyan, Jitendra Singh, Bhupendra Yadav, Arjun Ram Meghwal and L Murugan, two former chief ministers - Biplab Kumar Deb (Tripura) and Nabam Tuki (Arunachal Pradesh), and former governor Tamilisai Soundararajan (Telangana) are among those in fray.

In 2019, the UPA had won 45 of these 102 seats and the NDA 41. Six of these seats have been redrawn as part of the delimitation exercise.

Polling will be held in all seats of Tamil Nadu (39), Uttarakhand (5), Arunachal Pradesh (2), Meghalaya (2), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (1), Mizoram (1), Nagaland (1), Puducherry (1), Sikkim (1) and Lakshadweep (1).

Besides, there will be voting in 12 seats in Rajasthan, 8 in Uttar Pradesh, 6 in Madhya Pradesh, 5 seats each in Assam and Maharashtra, 4 in Bihar, 3 in West Bengal, 2 in Manipur, and one seat each in Tripura, Jammu and Kashmir and Chhattisgarh.

Authorities in these constituencies have been directed to ensure that no outsider remains in these areas 48 hours before polling. Any form of electioneering, public meetings, press conferences by political parties, interviews and panel discussions in electronic or print media have been strictly prohibited.

In Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister and DMK boss M K Stalin, on the last day of campaigning, described the polls as the "second freedom movement" and reiterated that the election is about deciding "whose regime must not continue" rather than who should capture power. He also alleged that Modi has ruined the nation for the sake of his "selfish politics".

BJP Tamil Nadu unit president K Annamalai also held high-voltage campaigns.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav addressed rallies in Saharanpur and Moradabad Wednesday in Uttar Pradesh.

In Jammu and Kashmir, Modi had reassured the people about holding of assembly elections and restoration of statehood.

Home Minister Shah, during a rally, reiterated that the assembly elections will be held in accordance with the deadline of September 30 set by the Supreme Court.

Naxal-affected Bastar in Chhattisgarh will vote in the first phase, an exercise that will take place in the shadow of a major counter-insurgency operation in Kanker district Tuesday in which 29 Maoists, including senior cadres, were gunned down by security forces.

The second phase of polling for 89 seats in 13 states and Union territories will be held on April 26. 

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