A voter’s finger is marked with indelible ink after casting her vote at a polling station during the fourth phase of voting for national elections in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Lok Sabha Election 2019: A Guide To The Final Phase

Political parties and independent candidates have officially ended campaigning as India prepares to enter the final phase of polling on Sunday. Voters from 59 constituencies spread across seven states and one union territory will cast their ballot to choose from 918 candidates.

Last week, 63.44 percent voters turned out to vote in the sixth phase. The Election Commission will declare the results on May 23. Since the May 11 polling, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed his first ever press conference. The supporters of the BJP and Trinamool Congress engaged in a violent clash in West Bengal. The poll panel, in a first-of-its-kind decision, cut electioneering in West Bengal by a day. Sadhvi Pragya Thakur—the Bharatiya Janata Party’s representative in Bhopal—courted controversy by calling Nathuram Godse a “patriot” but went on to issue an apology after drawing flak from Modi and Amit Shah.

Key Seats To Watch Out For

Bihar

  • Patna Sahib: Shatrughan Sinha will contest as a Congress candidate this time against the BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad. While this is the incumbent Minister of Law and Justice’s first-ever Lok Sabha election, the BJP had refused to give Sinha a ticket for a third-term as MP.
  • Pataliputra: Former Lalu Yadav loyalist and four-time MP Ram Kripal Yadav is contesting on a BJP ticket against Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Misa Bharti. Ram Kripal Yadav had quit the party in 2014 to join BJP after Lalu Yadav gave the ticket to his daughter Bharti who lost.
  • Buxar: BJP’s Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwani Kumar Choubey seeks a second term and will compete against RJD’s Jagadanand Singh. Singh was an MP from 2009-2014 before losing to Choubey with a 1.3-lakh vote margin.

Himachal Pradesh

  • Kangra: Congress’ Pawan Kajal will compete against BJP’s Kishan Kapoor. The BJP dropped four-time MP Shanta Kumar from the seat and has fielded Kapoor, who belongs to the Gaddi tribe and is the Minister for Food and Civil Supply in the Jairam Thakur-led government. Pawan Kajal is a two-time MLA and is an OBC candidate.
  • Mandi: Incumbent BJP MP Ram Swarup Sharma will contest against Congress’ Ashray Sharma, the grandson of Pandit Sukhram who was involved in the 1996 telecom scam.
  • Hamirpur: BJP’s Anurag Thakur seeks a fifth term against Congress’ Ram Lal Thakur, who is a sitting MLA from Shri Naina Devi constituency. Anurag Thakur is a former Board of Control for Cricket in India chief and has represented the seat since 2008. Ram Lal Thakur has lost the Lok Sabha election thrice and lost the 2007 by-election to PK Dhumal by over 80,000 votes.

Jharkhand

  • Dumka: Jharkhand Mukti Morcha founder and former state Chief Minister Shibu Soren will compete against his former mentee - Sunil Soren. Shibu Soren has been winning this seat since the formation of Jharkhand. The last time the BJP won this seat was when Babulal Marandi represented it from 1998-2002. Sunil Soren, who had contested against Shibu Soren in 2009 and 2014—lost both times, but increased his vote share.

Madhya Pradesh

  • Mandsaur: BJP’s sitting MP Sudheer Gupta seeks a second term as he competes against Congress’ Meenakshi Natarajan and BSP’s Prabhulal Meghwal. Gupta had defeated Natarajan in 2014.
  • Indore: Eight-time MP and speaker of the previous Lok Sabha, Sumitra Mahajan had to make a public announcement of her opting out of the electoral race after the BJP top brass took inordinately long to declare their candidate from the seat. 'Tai' as she is fondly referred to has been winning the seat since 1989. Instead, the BJP picked Shankar Lalwani, former Chairman of the Indore Development Authority and President of the Indore Municipal Corporation. Up against Lalwani is Congress candidate Pankaj Sanghvi, who lost the 1998 election to Mahajan.
  • Ratlam: This seat has traditionally been a Congress stronghold. From the first election held in 1952, only three instances have seen candidates from parties other than the Congress emerging victorious. One such instance was in 2014, when the late Dileep Singh Bhuria won the seat. Bhuria was also MP from 1980 to 1996, on a Congress ticket before defecting to the BJP. Kantilal Bhuria, a four-time MP won the ensuing by-poll and now seeks a fifth term in office.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi Interview: India Needs A New Economic Model, There’s No Other Way

Punjab

  • Gurdaspur: The seat represented by late actor Vinod Khanna was won by Sunil Jakhar, son of former Lok Sabha speaker Balram Jakhar in the by-poll. Jakhar now seeks re-election from the seat. Up against him is Ajay Singh Deol, better known as Sunny Deol whose father Dharmendra was also an MP on a BJP ticket. Dharmendra in an interview had also said that he would not have let Sunny contest from Gurdaspur had he known that his opponent was Sunil Jakhar as he too was like a son to him.
  • Amritsar: Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri will be making his Lok Sabha debut with this election. He is currently a Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh. Up against him is Gurjeet Singh Aujla, who won the 2017 by-poll after Amarinder Singh became Chief Minister. Amarinder Singh had defeated Arun Jaitley from this seat in 2014.
  • Patiala: Amarinder Singh's hometown where his wife and three-time MP Preneet Kaur lost to then-AAP member Dharamvir Gandhi. Gandhi has now gone on to form his own unit, the Nawaan Punjab Party and seeks re-election this time around. Kaur, who lost in 2014 by just 21,000 votes is also in the fray.
  • Bathinda: Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal is seeking a third-term as MP. Up against her is Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, a sitting MLA and former President of the Indian Youth Congress. Badal had won in 2014 by just under 20,000 votes.
  • Firozpur: An Akali Dal stronghold, the party has been winning the seat since 1998. However, two-time and sitting MP Sher Singh Ghubaya has defected to the Congress and has been promptly given an opportunity to defend his seat. Up against Ghubaya is former Punjab Deputy CM and Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal. Badal has represented Faridkot as MP from 1996-1999.
  • Sangrur: Comedian turned controversial MP Bhagwant Mann is seeking re-election from the constituency, which was one of the four seats won by the Aam Aadmi Party in 2014. His opponent, Parminder Singh Dhindsa, is the son of former Union Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and has been undefeated in his electoral career since winning his first election in 2000. The Congress candidate from this seat is Kewal Singh Dhillon.

Uttar Pradesh

  • Gorakhpur: Bhojpuri superstar Ravi Kishan contested the 2014 election from Jaunpur as a Congress candidate and lost. He joined the BJP in 2017. Gorakhpur is considered to be a BJP bastion, having been won by current Chief Minister Adityanath five times in a row from 1998 to 2014. The Mahagathbandhan won the seat in the by-polls after Adityanath vacated the seat after becoming chief minister. The winning candidate, Praveen Kumar Nishad, defected to the BJP but was not given a ticket.
  • Ghazipur: Minister of Telecom and Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha seeks a fourth-term as MP, having won previously in 1996, 1999 and 2014. Up against him is Afzal Ansari, who won the 2004 election from this seat. He also contested in 2009 but lost to the SP candidate. He is also the elder brother of Mukhtar Ansari, who has been convicted in multiple criminal cases.
  • Varanasi: With the exception of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, every other candidate who contested against the Prime Minister in 2014, ended up losing his deposit. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's much anticipated electoral debut was quashed when the Congress announced Ajay Rai's candidature against Modi. Rai also contested the 2014 poll and stood third. Rai was earlier a BJP MLA before defecting to the Congress.

West Bengal

  • Jadavpur: The Trinamool Congress has fielded famous actress Mimi Chakraborty from the seat where Mamata Banerjee made her electoral debut in 1984. Contesting against her is the current MP from Bolpur and turncoat from the Trinamool itself, Anupam Hazra.
  • Barasat: Kakali Ghosh Dastidar of the TMC seeks a third-term as MP from the seat where the BJP increased its vote share to 24 percent in 2014 from 5 percent in 2009. Up against her is the BJP's Mrinal Kanti Debnath.
  • Diamond Harbour: Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee seeks re-election from the seat that has produced MPs like the late Jyoti Basu in the past. Banerjee won the 2014 poll by over 70,000 votes. The left has nominated Fuad Halim from the seat while the Nilanjan Roy is the BJP candidate.

Also read: The Press Conference That Wasn’t: Modi Stays Mum in Rare Event

Criminal Cases

The National Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms analysed self-sworn affidavits of 909 of the total 918 candidates. Here’s a breakup of all the candidates contesting the seventh phase:

  • National parties: 162
  • State parties: 69
  • Registered unrecognised parties: 372
  • Independents: 315

In this phase, 19 percent, or 170 candidates, have criminal cases lodged against them.

In this phase, 14 percent of the candidates face serious criminal charges entailing a punishment of at least five years, the survey showed. These include kidnapping, murder, rape and offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act. While there are 12 candidates who have been charged with murder, 20 have been accused of committing crimes against women.

The BJP has fielded 15 out of 43 candidates with serious criminal charges, while 10 out of 45 Congress candidates are history-sheeters.

Red Alert Constituencies

There are 33 constituencies in this phase where three or more contesting candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves.

  • Uttar Pradesh tops the list with nine of its 13 constituencies on ‘red alert’.
  • Bihar’s Karakat constituency tops the list with nine of the 27 candidates being criminals.

Asset And Tax Check

Around 31 percent of candidates in this phase are crorepatis, with average assets held by each is at Rs 4.61 crore.

  • All candidates of the Shiromani Akali Dal are crorepatis. There are 37 other parties who have pitched crorepati candidates.
  • Among the major parties, 89 percent of BJP candidates have declared assets worth more than Rs 1 crore, while for the Congress it’s 84 percent. More than half of the Aam Aadmi Party’s candidates are crorepatis.
  • The average assets held by each BJP candidate is Rs 9.82 crore, while it’s Rs 17.15 crore for the Congress. BSP candidates have average assets worth Rs 5.24 crore, and AAP candidates have average assets worth Rs 5.20 crore.
  • Bihar’s independent candidate for Pataliputra, Ramesh Kumar Sharma, declared highest assets at Rs 1,107 crore. That’s nearly three times the previous phase’s candidates with the highest assets.
Shiromani Akali Dal’s power couple—its President Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal—hold Rs 217 crore each. They also have the highest liabilities of Rs 95 crore each.
  • Punjab’s Ambedkar National Congress candidate Urmila has the lowest assets worth Rs 200.
  • There are three candidates who have declared zero assets in this phase.

Age, Education

  • This phase has 401 candidates, or 44 percent of the total contenders, with educational qualification between fifth grade and twelfth grade.
  • Nearly half of the candidates are at least graduates.
  • Twenty-four candidates are illiterate, while 25 are educated enough to be deemed literate.
  • In this phase, 59 percent of the candidates are between 25 years and 50 years of age, followed by aspirants in the age group of 51-80 years. There are three octogenarians in this phase, while three have not declared their age.
  • This election has only 11 percent women representation, or 96 female candidates. That compares with the previous phase’s 9 percent representation.

How crucial are the 59 seats in the final phase for the BJP? Harsha Subramaniam speaks to Aditi Phadnis, Nistula Hebbar and Amitabh Tiwari: