All up for grabs in last Lok Sabha phase
As the seventh and final phase of the Lok Sabha elections takes place tomorrow, the curtains will finally come down on a very fractious and shrill poll season. A total of 59 seats will go to polls in this round. Of them, the 13 seats in Punjab will be crucial as BJP looks for a final boost here to make up for potential losses elsewhere. And Congress leader Sam Pitroda’s controversial “hua toh hua” (so what, it happened) comment on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots has given BJP ample fodder.
The riots still rankle with Punjab’s Sikh community and it may punish Congress for its leader’s gaffe. Meanwhile, BJP may also capitalise on the anti-incumbency built up against the Congress state government in Punjab. Moving to Bengal which has been in focus in recent days because of political violence, the nine seats going to polls on Sunday were all won by Trinamool Congress in 2014. This time BJP is looking to make serious inroads, forcing chief minister Mamata Banerjee to do some heavy defending. What might aid her is the recent vandalism of a statue of Bengali social reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. Mamata is already trying to rally Bengali sentiments by blaming ‘non-Bengali’ BJP supporters for the destruction.
It’s almost the reverse situation in UP where the 13 seats going to polls were all won by BJP and ally Apna Dal five years ago. But this time the mahagathbandhan of SP, BSP and RLD is posing a stiff challenge to BJP. The latter though may be helped by the tie-up with the Nishad party, particularly in Purvanchal seats like Gorakhpur. Nonetheless, a tight contest to the finishing line appears to be in the offing. PM Narendra Modi’s Varanasi constituency, however, should be a cakewalk for BJP’s number one.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.