Campaigning ends for 6th phase of Lok Sabha polls in 58 seats

New Delhi, May 23 (PTI) Campaigning ended on Thursday for the penultimate phase of Lok Sabha elections in 58 constituencies across six states and two Union territories, including all the seven seats in Delhi.

Besides the national capital, polling for the sixth round of the marathon seven-phase elections will be held Saturday in 14 seats in Uttar Pradesh, all 10 seats of Haryana, eight seats each in Bihar and West Bengal, six seats in Odisha, four seats in Jharkhand and one seat in Jammu and Kashmir.

Till now, voting has been completed in 25 states and Union territories and 428 constituencies out of 543. The last phase of polling is scheduled on June 1 and counting of votes will be taken up on June 4.

Among the key contestants are Dharmendra Pradhan (BJP) from Sambalpur (Odisha), Manoj Tiwari (BJP) and Kanhaiya Kumar (Congress) from North East Delhi, Maneka Gandhi (BJP) from Sultanpur (Uttar Pradesh), Mehbooba Mufti (PDP) from Anantnag-Rajouri (Jammu and Kashmir), Abhijit Gangopadhyay (BJP) from Tamluk (West Bengal), and BJP’s Manohar Lal Khattar (Karnal, Haryana), Naveen Jindal (Kurukshetra) and Rao Inderjit Singh (Gurgaon).

With campaigning reaching fever pitch, the Election commission took exception to utterances of star campaigners and on Wednesday directed the leaders of the ruling BJP to refrain from making speeches on religious and communal lines, and opposition Congress from potentially divisive statements on the socioeconomic composition of the armed forces.

On the last day of campaigning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a rally each in Punjab and Haryana.

He took a dig at the INDIA bloc, saying the “cow hasn’t given milk but the fight over ghee has started” as the alliance is “talking about having five PMs in five years”.

Modi also asserted that till he is alive, no one can snatch the reservation for Dalits and tribals.

The day before, he referred to the Calcutta High Court’s decision to strike down the OBC status granted to “77 classes” in West Bengal since 2010 to hit out at the INDIA bloc, saying its “obsession with appeasement” has crossed every limit.

Addressing an election meeting here, Modi said, “Just today, the Calcutta High Court has given a big slap to this INDI alliance. The court has cancelled all OBC certificates issued since 2010. Why? Because the West Bengal government issued unwarranted OBC certificates to Muslims just because of the vote bank.”

In Delhi, the BJP’s poll campaign saw Modi addressing two rallies besides canvassing by Union ministers Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Smriti Irani and Piyush Goyal and chief ministers of BJP-ruled states, including Yogi Adityanath (Uttar Pradesh), Pushkar Singh Dhami (Uttarakhand) and Pramod Sawant (Goa).

The Congress’s poll campaign was led by its chief Mallikarjun Kharge, senior leader Rahul Gandhi and Sachin Pilot among others. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was released on interim bail till June 1, held roadshows in support of Congress’ candidates while Pilot campaigned for AAP’s South Delhi candidate Sahi Ram Pahalwan.

AAP’s poll campaign got a shot in the arm with the release of Kejriwal from Tihar. While Kejriwal was in jail, his wife Sunita Kejriwal held roadshows for party candidates and senior party leaders Atishi, Saurabh Bharadwaj, Sanjay Singh, Gopal Rai held various jansabhas and outreach activities under the party’s ‘Jail Ka Jawab Vote Se’ campaign.

Following his release, Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann led roadshows in some constituencies while Sunita alo joined her husband for poll meetings.

The alleged assault on AAP MP Swati Maliwal at Kejriwal’s official residence has also become an poll issue with the BJP hitting out at the party for being “anti-women.

Kejriwal has said he expects a fair investigation into the matter and justice should be served.

At the peak of campaigning in Odisha, BJP’s Puri candidate Sambit Patra kicked up a row with his comment that “Lord Jagannath is a devotee of Modi”. Patra later clarified that his remark was inadvertently made and expressed regret.

The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) was quick to react, saying Patra’s “offensive” comment has severely hurt the sentiments of millions of Odias worldwide.

The party also lodged a complaint with the EC on Wednesday against Patra for using a photo of Jagannath temple in an advertisement issued by him in the local media.

While campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, Modi claimed the Congress and the Samajwadi Party are “more concerned about their vote bank than Kumbh mela”.

BSP chief Mayawati termed both the Congress and the BJP anti-Dalit and anti-backward stating their intentions and thoughts are against reservation.

In his rallies, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has claimed that in the five rounds of polling till now, BJP has “crossed 310” and the Congress is “not even getting 40 seats”.

Shah has also accused several leaders from the opposition parties of nepotism.

“Lalu Prasad Yadav wants to make his son the chief minister, Uddhav Thackeray wants to make his son the chief minister, Sharad Pawar wants to make his daughter the chief minister, Stalin wants to make his son the chief minister, Mamata Banerjee wants to make her nephew the chief minister and Sonia Gandhi wants to make her son Rahul Gandhi the prime minister,” he said at a rally in Sant Kabir Nagar in Uttar Pradesh, adding someone who works for his family is not going to work for a constituency.

BJP leaders have also been asserting that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is a part of India and the party will take it back.

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