Key constituencies to watch in India’s high-stakes election

India’s election is past the halfway mark, with campaigning between the main political parties heating up just like the soaring temperatures across the country.

Thousands of candidates from various parties and independent hopefuls are seeking the attention of all the eligible voters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking to extend his decade in office by another five years, has been criticized by the opposition for his aggressive and polarizing speeches. Challenger Rahul Gandhi of the Indian National Congress (INC), which is in alliance with more than 20 parties, is attempting to stop Modi’s juggernaut.

The once-in-five-year festival of democracy in India has actors, sports stars and millionaires battling it out alongside career politicians. 

Of the 543 seats in the parliament, here are some of the most keenly watched contests:

AMETHI, WAYANAD

The suspense over senior INC leader Rahul Gandhi’s choice of a second constituency has finally ended. And it is not Amethi, the family bastion he’d previously won in three elections before losing to Smriti Irani of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2019. Uttar Pradesh, had long been a Gandhi family stronghold, with his parents and an uncle also previously voted to power there. 

  • Also read: Suspense ends, twist remains: Rahul to contest from Raebareli, family loyalist Kishori Lal Sharma from Amethi LS seat

He will instead contest from Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh state, as well as in Wayanad, a district in the picturesque southern state of Kerala, which he won the last time.

From Amethi, the Congress has fielded Kishori Lal Sharma, who has been with the party for decades.

The BJP’s Irani is contesting once again. The election will be held on May 20, in the fifth phase of the seven-phase election.

 

RAEBARELI

Sonia Gandhi, the former president of the Congress party, who’s won the last five elections from Raebareli, decided to stay out of the fray this time. The constituency, about 60 kilometers (37.282 miles) west of Amethi, has long been dominated by the Gandhi family, with her late mother-in-law and former prime minister Indira Gandhi winning the seat thrice.

Her son, Rahul, would be hoping to retain the family borough. His sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was rumored to make her electoral debut in the city, won’t be contesting the elections.

Standing against him is BJP’s Dinesh Pratap Singh who lost against Sonia Gandhi in 2019. The constituency will vote on May 20.

LADAKH

The BJP is trying to score a hat-trick of wins here, even as it battles rising local angst.

  • Also read: New Delhi-based bureaucracy can’t understand complexities unique to Ladakh: Sonam Wangchuk

Part of the Jammu & Kashmir, broken into two federally controlled territories after Modi’s government scrapped its autonomy in 2019, Ladakh is demanding statehood. Climate activist Sonam Wangchuk has rallied people to press for it and is seeking action to protect the fragile ecology of the strategically crucial region, nestled between Tibet and Pakistan. The BJP has picked a new candidate, dropping 2019 winner Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, who is in open rebellion against the party.  

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

. Congress’ Shashi Tharoor, a former minister and undersecretary-general of the United Nations, is vying for a fourth straight term. The BJP has fielded junior technology minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar, hoping to unsettle Tharoor and win a seat in a state that has traditionally shown little interest in the party’s right-wing politics.

  • Also read: will shashi tharoor trump again in thiruvananthapuram
COIMBATORE

BJP has fielded former police officer K. Annamalai against strong challengers from regional parties. Annamalai, who’s campaigned close to 10,000 km on foot, has garnered popularity in recent months. Modi, has visited the state six times this year to bolster the party’s chances.

  • Also read: Can Annamalai’s popularity translate into votes for the BJP?
KRISHNANAGAR

BJP has left no stone unturned to win a majority of the state’s seats. Standing in their way is firebrand regional leader Mamata Banerjee. Her party’s candidate from the constituency is former JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker Mahua Moitra . Moitra was expelled from parliament last year on allegations of ‘unethical conduct.’ The BJP has fielded Amrita Roy, a member of the town’s erstwhile royal family. The constituency is famous for its globally-acclaimed clay models.

  • Also read: Mohua Moitra hopes to avenge her Parliament expulsion with huge victory
BARAMATI

Sharad Pawar’s daughter, Supriya Sule is seeking a fourth straight term from the seat. The contest, this time, is expected to be a tough one. Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar is pitting his wife Sunetra Ajit Pawar against Sule. Ajit had split his uncle’s party to side with the BJP and was made a deputy chief minister in the state government. Since then, both Ajit and Sunetra’s names have been cleared by the country’s investigative agencies in cases related to multibillion-dollar scams.

  • Also read: Political thriller unfolds in Sharad Pawar’s Baramati
BARMER

A young, independent candidate is making waves in the desert town of Barmer in the western state of Rajasthan. The BJP won this constituency in the last two elections. Ravindra Singh Bhati, a 26-year-old student leader who sprung a surprise by winning in last year’s Rajasthan assembly elections.

  • Also read: Congress throws down the gauntlet in Rajasthan

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com



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