New Delhi: The 17th Lok Sabha election will conclude today with its seventh and final phase. The bitter battle between parties saw some 10 odd constituencies attracting the media attention even though, numerically, every seat adds a count of just one to the Lok Sabha tally.
That is because these 10 seats determine either the importance or relative irrelevance of the candidates for the coming five years, or they represent an ideological war which either side is keen on winning.
1. Rahul Gandhi vs Smriti Irani
The eyes not only in the country but also the world have fixed their gaze on Amethi. In this constituency in Uttar Pradesh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and BJP’s flamboyant Smriti Irani fought a pitched battle for the second time. The last fight was not one-sided. Irani managed to reduce Gandhi’s victory margin of 2009 to a great extent. While a section of the media is upbeat about Gandhi’s ‘maturity’ as a leader eventually, he fought from Kerala’s Wayanad too, giving an opportunity to the BJP to go around telling the people that he was about to lose Amethi. Also, Gandhi has been busy campaigning across India while Irani could concentrate on Amethi.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra campaigned hard in this family pocket borough.
Either outcome of the election for this seat will be crucial. A victory here would cement Rahul’s position in the Congress where the old guard still calls many a shot. Defeat would make Rajya Sabha MP Irani’s position tentative in the BJP if her party continues in the government. A shock victory of Irani and defeat of Gandhi, on the other hand, will make Irani super-powerful in a probable new BJP government.
2. Moon Moon Sen vs Babul Supriyo
Asansol of West Bengal witnessed a fight between two celebrities from the film world: a ‘siren’ of yesteryears’ cinema and a playback singer. Moon Moon Sen has been the Trinamool MP from Bankura whereas Union Minister in the BJP-led NDA government Babu Supriyo is the current MP of Asansol.
One may recall that Babul Supriyo had said during the 2014 election that Baba Ramdev had recommended his name to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the past five years, however, he has developed a status of his own.
The election of Asansol was marked by a violent incident and a hilarious one. While alleged Trinamool goons attacked BJP workers at polling stations and smashed the car of Babul Supriyo, when Moon Moon Sen was contacted for her response to the incident, she said she wouldn’t know what happened because she was served bed tea real late.
A repeat victory of Babul Supriyo from here may see him play a greater role in the BJP in the coming five years whereas Moon Moon Sen’s victory is unlikely to improve her position in the Trinamool.
3. Digvijaya Singh vs Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur
This is an ideological battle. BJP’s Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur is expected to ride on a repressed Hindu sentiment that would favour the woman who is believed to have undergone an ordeal, as the previous dispensation of the Congress-led UPA allegedly framed her in the Malegaon bombing case and then put her through police torture. On the other side, the Congress finds merit in the court case against her while their candidate Digvijaya Singh is Muslim appeasement personified, associated with the defence of suspected terrorists in the encounter of Batla House of Delhi, the reference to a global terrorist like Osama bin Laden with the honorific “ji“, and the conspiracy theory that the RSS was behind the terror attack on Mumbai on 26-28 November 2008.
A victory or defeat in this election will be the victory or defeat of a nationwide discourse on terrorism and the political narrative associated with it.
4. Giriraj Singh vs Kanhaiya Kumar
The Begusarai seat of Bihar remained under the spotlight, too. Leftist intellectuals and the media celebrated Kanhaiya Kumar’s entry into mainstream politics, with film lyricist Javed Akhtar, actress and his wife Shabana Azmi and socialist intellectual Yogendra Yadav campaigned for him. On the other side, BJP’s Giriraj Singh, also a Union minister, sulked for a couple of days for being denied the ticket to Nawada and then accepted the party’s decision at the insistence of BJP president Amit Shah.
The least talked about candidate here, however, is pretty strong, Tanweer Hasan. It is because of his tremendous vote-pulling capability that CPI’s Kanhaiya Kumar stands little chance of winning from here as the anti-Modi votes will split, with the majority of these anti-BJP votes going to Hasan.
A most likely defeat of Kanhaiya Kumar from here would affect his communist campaign verging on separatism in the coming years.
5. Shatrughan vs Ravi Shankar
Bihar’s Patna Sahib Lok Sabha seat is known as a bastion of Kayasthas. Both BJP veteran and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Congress’s Shatrughan Sinha (who was expectedly denied a ticket this time by the BJP for his rebellious streak and who is now the Congress candidate from here) are Kayasthas.
But the area is considered also a stronghold of the BJP. The former film actor’s detractors say he cannot win from here this time because he is not supported by the BJP.
This is Ravi Shankar Prasad’s debut in a Lok Sabha election. From a BJP spokesman to a Union minister, Prasad has climbed up the ladder of success slowly but steadily.
6. ‘Babua’ vs Nirhua
With the help of bua or BSP chief Mayawati, SP candidate of former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav fought from Azamgarh, facing Bhojpuri film star Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirhua’. The latter is the underdog here. He reached out to the poor and the underprivileged sections of society to challenge Akhilesh Yadav’s formidable Yadav-Jatav combo. Akhilesh must carry forward the legacy of his father Mulayam Singh Yadav while Nirhua does not have much to lose.
7. Sunny Deol vs Sunil Jakhar
Contesting from the Gurdaspur seat of Punjab, Congress veteran Balram Jakhar’s son and current MP Sunil Jakhar says he cannot compete with his opponent, actor-turned-politician and BJP’s candidate from here Sunny Deol, in delivering film-like lines and that the local electorate need not vote for him if that would be the basis of their decision.
On the one hand, the Deol family is quite popular in this part of the country. On the other, Sunny’s campaign was marred by two statements. First, on being asked about India-Pakistan relations, he said he had no knowledge of the issue. Second, while campaigning for him, his father and actor Dharmendra said if he had known Balram Jakhar’s son was contesting from Gurdaspur, he would have urged his son not to fight from here because the Jakhars have been close to him.
Another actor-turned-politician, the late Vinod Khanna was elected from here in 2014.
7. Jaya Prada vs Azam Khan
Rampur is that place of the country from where Muslims migrated to Pakistan in 1947 in one of the highest volumes of the mass exodus that had happened during Partition. This was also among the places where the demand for Pakistan had arisen the loudest in the pre-independence era. Rampur is also Mulayam Singh’s deputy Azam Khan‘s citadel.
Because of the toxic campaign of Azam Khan, the Election Commission had debarred him from electioneering for two days. But despite everything, Khan has a higher chance of winning here for the sheer demographic reality of the constituency.
8. Sheila Dikshit vs Manoj Tiwari
Three-times Delhi Chief Minister and Congress veteran Sheila Dikshit is facing BJP MP and famous Bhojpuri film singer Manoj Tiwari in north-east Delhi. The third candidate, Dilip Pandey of the Aam Aadmi Party, does not stand much of a chance here even though the area happened to be a nursery of sorts for the AAP during its formative years.
While Sheila Dikshit boasts of her ‘performance’ of 15 years, it was because people were unhappy with her work that the Congress was wiped out of Delhi in the 2015 Assembly election. But the AAP has lost a huge chunk of its support base since then.
Manoj Tiwari enjoys the support of the sizeable Purvanchali and Bihari population of the area but is weakened by the constitution of the Delhi unit of the BJP. Delhi BJP is one of the weakest State units of the party, marked by factionalism, casteism and politician-trader nexus.
9. Bhagwant Rao vs Asaduddin Owaisi
Sitting MP and controversial politician Asaduddin Owaisi is the popular candidate in Hyderabad. This is All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader’s stronghold. This time though, the BJP has repeated Dr Bhagwant Rao from here for a reason.
In 2014, a direct fight between Bhagwant Rao and Owaisi saw Owaisi get 6,13,868 votes and Bhagwant Rao get 3,11,414 votes. The BJP could not have found a better local challenger to Owaisi here even though the demographics of the constituency favours the MIM clearly.
10. Athlete versus athlete
The battle of Jaipur rural parliamentary seat has turned interesting this time with two former players facing each other: Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore from the BJP and Krishna Poonia of the Congress. Both have been Olympians.
Currently, Krishna is an MLA. She won gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games while Rathore is a silver medallist Olympian in double trap shooting. He won the medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics.
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