Communal tension, AAP presence to mark polling in 3rd phase today
In addition to the Mahabharat region, there are six seats in Bihar, one in Chhattisgarh, five in Jharkhand, nine in Madhya Pradesh, 10 in Maharashtra and one in Chandigarh where the influence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi would be on test. These are the regions from where the BJP had fared exceedingly well during the Ramjanambhoomi movement in the 1990s and helped the formation of Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government
at the centre.
This time around in these areas two factors are going to play vital role – polarisation of voters on communal lines following the religious riots in Muzzafarnagar area of west UP last year and the presence of the debutant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) especially in the national capital and neighbouring constituencies like Gurgaon, Ghaziabad and Chandigarh. The presence of Maoist forces on seats in Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh would also cast its shadow. Given the trend of high voter turnout, voting will take place for 11 hours between 7 am to 6 pm.
The run up to this round of polls has witnessed sharp exchange of words between the leaders of various parties at times even turning bitter. The political discourse has also been inundated with exchanges bordering onto communal rhetoric especially involving Amit Shah of BJP, Azam Khan of Samajwadi Party and Imran Masood of the Congress. While the election is fast turning into BJP versus the other on most seats, the presence of AAP and also the valiant effort by the Congress party to gain lost ground has made contest in Delhi firmly triangular. The party has repeated all its sitting MPs including three ministers in Manmohan Singh government – Ajay Maken, Kapil Sibal and Krishna Tirath, son of former chief minister Sheila Dikshit – Sandeep Dikshit and a former president of the state unit of the party – JP Agarwal. But given the huge anti-incumbency factor and rise of AAP the Congress sitting MPs are getting a run for their money.
In addition to Kapil Sibal, Ajay Maken, Krishna Tirath, several other stalwarts from the Congress-UPA camp would be fighting battles for survival. These include aviation minister Ajit Singh in Baghpat, Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Hooda’s son Depender in Rohtak and corporate honcho Naveen Jindal in Kurukshetra. Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar too is fighting a close battle in the family pocket borough of Sasaram to retain the seat for the Congress.
Former Commissioner of Delhi Police Nikhil Kumar too would try to wrest his family seat of Aurangabad in Bihar from Janata Dal (United). Another super cop Satyapal Singh, former Mumbai police boss, is locked in a close battle to demolish Ajit Singh’s family citadel of Baghpat. He has emerged as the new face of BJP in west UP, so has former chief of army staff General VK Singh, who is trying his luck from Ghaziabad. Former BJP president Nitin Gadkari is fighting his maiden Lok Sabha battle from hometown of Nagpur in Vidharbha region of Maharashtra.
The stars of Aam Aadmi Party trying their luck on Thursday include psephologist Yogendra Yadav, Jawaharlal Nehru Univesity (JNU) professor Anand Kumar, former journalists Ashutosh, Ashish Khetan and Shazia Ilmi. In Chandigarh, party candidate an actor Gul Panag is locked in contest with her counterpart from Bollywood Kirron Kher (BJP) and former union minister Pawan Bansal.