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A former Prime Minister, four Union Ministers, and several high-profile first-timers are among more than 1,629 candidates setting the stage for a number of riveting encounters in the second round of Lok Sabha elections today. Over 15 crore, 79 lakh and 34 thousand voters spread across 95 constituencies in 11 states and the union territory of Puducherry are casting their votes.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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. In 2014, Mr Radhakrishnan got 3.72 lakh votes while Mr Vasanthakumar was the runner up with 2.44 lakh votes.
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.
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.
Tejasvi Surya, a young lawyer and a rising star in the BJP, was named the party’s candidate for the prestigious Bengaluru South seat in Karnataka after much discussion and drama. Mr Surya is up against seasoned Congress leader B K Hariprasad. Bengaluru South was previously held by Union Minister Ananth Kumar, who died last year.
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.
Former Prime Minister Deve Gowda has left his home turf Hassan to one of his grandsons and is seeking re-election from Tumkur, a Congress bastion and major industrial city, about 70 km from the state capital Bengaluru. An interesting contest unfolds in the constituency as Deve Gowda, a Vokkaliga, has locked horn in a two-cornered contest with BJP candidate GS Basavaraj, a Lingayat.