Lok Sabha polls: Voting in phase 2 begins, holds key to opposition plans

Ninety-five Lok Sabha seats across 11 states began voting at 7 am in the second phase of the 2019 general elections on Thursday with long queues seen outside polling booths at several places and Prime Minister Modi urging voters to go out and vote.

PM Modi, who had issued a similar appeal in first phase too, tweeted on Thursday: “Dear Citizens of India, Phase 2 of the Lok Sabha polls start today. I am sure all those whose seats are polling today will strengthen our democracy by exercising their franchise. I hope more youngsters head to the polling booths and vote!”

In the first hour of voting, several politicians and leaders cast their votes. Among the early voters were Tamil star Rajinikanth in Chennai, Congress leaders P Chidambaram in Sivaganga and Sushil Kumar Shinde in Solapur. Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman voted in Jaynagar of Bangalore South constituency and actor-turned-politician Kamal Hassan in Chennai.

A few voters in Tamil Nadu, Assam and Uttar Pradesh’ Agra and Mathura complained of glitches in EVMs and VVPAT machines.

The original schedule was for 97 seats, but the Election Commission of India has cancelled polling in Vellore (Tamil Nadu) and Tripura East constituencies.

In the 2014 elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 27 out of these 95 seats. Another six seats of these 95 went to its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners. The Congress won just 12 out of these 95 seats in the 2014 elections, while other United Progressive Alliance (UPA) partners won three seats. That means 47 seats went to non-NDA, non-UPA parties.

All of Tamil Nadu except Vellore will go to polls in the second phase. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) swept the state in the 2014 elections, winning 37 out of the 39 seats. The AIADMK, which contested all 39 seats in Tamil Nadu in 2014, has allied with the BJP and five other regional parties in the state this time. While the AIADMK is being perceived as a much weaker force in 2019 due to the death of its leader J Jayalalithaa and subsequent defections over succession issues, a good performance by the NDA in the state could significantly enhance its 2019 prospects.

The BJP also has high stakes in Karnataka, another southern state going to polls in this phase. It won six out of the 14 seats in the southern part of the state in 2014, where polling will take place today. Unlike in 2014, the BJP will have to face the combined strength of the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) this time.

Eight seats in Uttar Pradesh and five seats in Bihar are also going to polls in the second phase. The BJP won all of these eight seats in UP against a divided opposition. It will have to face the combined strength of the Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) this time.

The BJP did not even have one Lok Sabha seat from the five that are going to the polls in this phase in Bihar. Even in 2019, all of these seats have been given to the Janata Dal (United), an NDA ally in the state.

Ten parliamentary constituencies in Maharashtra will go to polls in this phase. The NDA won eight of these in the 2014 elections. Even in the 2009 elections, the NDA won six out of these 10 seats.

Another state in which the BJP has high stakes in this phase is Chhattisgarh. The party won all of the three Lok Sabha constituencies that are going to polls in this phase. Extrapolating the 2018 assembly results at the parliamentary level shows that the Congress was ahead of the BJP in all of these seats.

All major states except Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana will go to polls in more than one phase in the 2019 elections. This excludes hill states such as Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, North-Eastern states and union territories.

An HT analysis shows that 79 Lok Sabha seats in seven big states – Assam, Bihar, Maharashtra, Odisha, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh – which vote in the first and second phase in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections voted in sync with state-wise outcomes (of the national elections) in both the 2009 and 2014 elections. Simply speaking, this means that unless a party or alliance was ahead of or at par with others in these seats, it could not have finished first in the respective states. The NDA made huge gains at the cost of the UPA in these 79 seats between the 2009 and 2014 elections.

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