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Penultimate phase of Lok Sabha polls arrives amid rising heat


New Delhi, May 24 (IANS) As India’s mammoth electoral exercise reaches its sixth and penultimate phase, over 11 crore voters in eight states/UTs from the teeming environs of Delhi and its neighbourhood to the coalfields of Jharkhand to coastal Odisha will head to polling booths on Saturday to choose their preferred nominees from 889 candidates in the fray.Polling in this phase covers 58 seats (including 2 reserved for STs and 7 for SCs) in Bihar (8), Jharkhand (4), Haryana (10), Delhi (7), Odisha (6), Uttar Pradesh (14), West Bengal (8), and the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency in Jammu and Kashmir, where polling was deferred from the third phase on May 7.Voting for 42 seats of the Odisha Assembly will also be held in the state’s third phase of simultaneous polling.The prominent candidates in this phase include Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan from Odisha’s Sambalpur, former Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar from Karnal, Manoj Tiwari from North East Delhi, former Union Minister Maneka Gandhi from UP’s Sultanpur, former Calcutta High Court judge Abhijit Gangophadhyay from West Bengal’s Tamluk, industrialist Naveen Jindal from Haryana’s Kurukshetra, and former Maharashtra minister Kripashankar Singh from UP’s Jaunpur (all BJP).Other top candidates include Kumari Selja from Haryana’s Sirsa, Deepender Singh Hooda from Haryana’s Rohtak, J.P. Agarwal from Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, and former JNUSU chief Kanhaiya Kumar from North East Delhi (all Congress), PDP President and former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti (Anantnag-Rajouri), actor-politician Deepak ‘Dev’ Adhikari from West Bengal’s Ghatal, and Lalitesh Pati Tripathi from UP’s Bhadohi (both Trinamool Congress)The key contests also include late Union Minister Sushma Swaraj’s daughter Bansuri Swaraj making her electoral debut from New Delhi against Aam Aadmi Party’s Somnath Bharti, Congress’ Raj Babbar taking on Union Minister and sitting MP Rao Inderjit Singh in Gurgaon, Congress candidate Ujjwal Raman Singh against BJP’s Neeraj Tripathi in Allahabad, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav’s cousin Dharmendra Yadav against sitting BJP MP Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirhua’ in Azamgarh, and BJP spokesman Sambit Patra vs BJD candidate and former Mumbai Police Chief Arup Patnaik in Odisha’s Puri.The Election Commission said that 11.4 lakh polling officials have been deployed to facilitate voting by 11.13 crore voters – 5.84 crore male, 5.29 crore female, and 5,120 third-gender – across 1.14 lakh polling stations.Of the voters, there are over 8.93 lakh aged 85 and above, 23,659 voters above 100 years, and 9.58 lakh PwD voters, who were provided the option to vote from the comfort of their homes, it said.Voting will begin at 7 a.m. and will formally end at various times in the evening depending upon the constituencies concerned, as per the EC.In view of the soaring temperatures, the poll panel said that CEOs and the state machinery concerned have been directed to take adequate measures to manage the adverse impact of hot weather or rainfall wherever predicted.The polling stations are ready to welcome the voters with ample shade, drinking water, ramps, toilets, and other basic facilities to ensure that polling takes place in a comfortable and secure environment.Special care has been taken to ensure assured minimum facilities like volunteers, and wheelchairs to enable the elderly and persons with disabilities to cast their votes with ease.The Election Commission has called upon the voters to turn out in greater numbers at the polling stations and vote with responsibility and pride, with the electorate of urban centres like Delhi, Gurugram, and Faridabad especially reminded about their right and duty to vote and break the trend of urban apathy.With this phase, Delhi, Haryana, and J&K will join the 25 states/UTs where polling has already been concluded in the earlier phase, taking the number of parliamentary seats where the fate of the candidates has been sealed in the EVMs to 486.Polling for the last phase (57 seats) in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal, as well as Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and the UT of Chandigarh, will be held on June 1.The results will be declared on June 4.–IANSvd/arm

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