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Campaigning for second phase poll ends
‘Foreign origin’ issue goes to peoples’ court
Tribune News Service & PTI

New Delhi, April 24
Campaigning for 137 Lok Sabha constituencies in 11 states going to the polls on Monday, including those of Congress President Sonia Gandhi (Rae Bareli), Rahul Gandhi (Amethi), Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi (Mumbai, North Central) and NDA convener George Fernandes (Muzaffarpur) ended this evening, 48 hours before the second phase of parliamentary elections.

A total of 1,278 candidates, who are in the fray, took to door-to-door campaigning to woo the 17.23 crore-strong electorate in the last minute as loudspeakers fell silent and rallies came to a close as the clock struck 5 p.m. bringing to an end the poll cacophony.

While the BJP-led NDA is stressing on the Prime Minister's charisma and using him as a brand to accomplish its "unfinished agenda" and make India a developed country by 2020, the Congress President has criss-crossed the country to revive the fortunes of her party from its lowest strength of 114 in the dissolved Lok Sabha.

The 'foreign origin' issue and the entry of 'generation next' of the Nehru-Gandhi family will be put to test in the peoples' court. The party is also hoping to regain lost ground in the key Uttar Pradesh state with the entry of Rahul Gandhi in the fray and aggressive campaigning by the Gandhis to counter the "foreign origin" issue and challenge regional rivals like the Samajwadi Party as also Bahujan Samaj Party that spurned a pre-poll alliance with it.

With Monday's election, electorate in 279 parliamentary constituencies out of 540-member Lower House will have exercised their franchise for the 14th Lok Sabha. Apart from Sonia Gandhi, there are 59 other women candidates in the fray, with Uttar Pradesh accounting for 16 of them.

The politically decisive state of Uttar Pradesh also has the highest number of Independent candidates in a seat-the Ghosi parliamentary seats will witness contest between 23 candidates, highest in a seat going to the polls in the second phase.

Elections on Monday will cover 32 out of 80 Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, 24 of 48 seats in Maharashtra, 21 out of 42 in Andhra Pradesh, 17 of 40 seats in Bihar, 13 of 28 in Karnataka, 10 of 21 in Orissa, eight each in Assam and Jharkhand, two in Goa and one each in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir.

The April 26 elections will also cover the second and final phase of Assembly elections in 147 of 294 constituencies in Andhra Pradesh, 104 out of 224 seats in Karnataka and 70 out of 147 seats in Orissa.

Monday's poll has an interesting mix of candidates, including two former Prime Ministers, two ex-Governors, two Speakers, eight former Chief Ministers, 10 Union Ministers, 14 former Union Ministers, as also a couple of film stars and about a dozen history-sheeters presenting a challenge to the law enforcers.

The April 26 poll will seal the fate of former Prime Ministers Chandra Shekhar and H. D. Deve Gowda, who are seeking re-election from Ballia and Hassan, respectively, and former Governors Mahaveer Prasad and Mata Prasad, who have been fielded by the Congress from Bansgaon and Saidpur in Uttar Pradesh.

Over 1 lakh personnel of central paramilitary forces will be deployed in 11 states going to the polls on Monday in the second phase, with the CRPF itself positioning nearly 27,000 men for election duty for Srinagar seat in Jammu and Kashmir. Besides the central paramilitary forces, almost entire state police forces would be out to ensure peaceful balloting.

The Election Commission has declared almost 46 per cent of the total 1.72 lakh polling booths as sensitive or hyper sensitive with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar accounting for the maximum number of hyper sensitive polling stations.

While 28,119 booths were declared hyper sensitive, 47,499 were stated to be sensitive.

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