And it’s a wrap: Phase 7 marks end of 2019 Lok Sabha polls

Phase 7 is the last one of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The Indian democratic exercise—one of the largest and most exhaustive—will finally end after over a month of voting in 29 different states and a whopping 546 constituencies.

As many as 59 parliamentary constituencies in seven states and one union territory will participate in phase 7: Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Chandigarh (union territory).

UP and Punjab have the most number of seats up for election in this phase—13 each. UP is also fielding the most candidates (1,426), followed by Madhya Pradesh with 484 and West Bengal with 377.

The Press Information Bureau of India says over 10 crore voters will head to the polls to elect their representatives.

PM Modi, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Mimi Chakraborty, and Ajay Rai are some of the well-known candidates heading for election in this phase.

Key seat fights in phase 7

In Punjab, the BJP-Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) alliance is facing stiff competition from the Congress in UP’s Bathinda, Anandpur Sahib, Khadoor Sahib, Hoshiarpur, and Ferozpur constituencies, where the former only won with narrow margins.

In 2014, SAD’s Sukhbir Singh Badal defeated Congress candidate Manpreet Singh Badal with a marginal 2% lead in Bathinda. Sukhbir is now facing off AAP’s Baljinder Kaur and Congress’s Amarinder Singh Raja, reports India Today.

Even in Anandpur Sahib and Khadoor Sahib, the SAD won with mere 3% and 9.66% margins, respectively.

In UP’s Ghazipur and Kushi Nagar constituencies, the election narrative has been focused on the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP), and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) alliance that is being dubbed the “Mahagathbandhan” or grand alliance in 2019.

In 2014, BJP’s Manoj Sinha won against the BSP by a slim margin and went on to become the minister of communications. He is now returning to a strong BSP-SP alliance in his constituency, Ghazipur.

The Gorakhpur seat, which was vacated by Yogi Adityanath after the latter became UP CM, was taken up by SP’s Praveen Kumar Nishad. Adityanath must now defend himself in a constituency that was a traditional BJP bastion until the Mahagathbandhan came about.

Modi is standing for election for a second time in this season from Varanasi, UP, that will also vote in phase 7.

Varanasi came into the limelight after former BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav’s nomination was rejected by the SC. There were also rumours that the Congress would register Priyanka Gandhi against Modi in Varanasi; she herself teased the idea, as well.

However, on Sunday, Varanasi will come down to Modi, SP’s Shalini Yadav, and Congress’s Ajay Rai.

Jharkhand’s Godda seat is also a contentious fight between the Congress and BJP. In the last election, BJP candidate Nishikant Dubey won against Congress’s Furkan Ansari, but only by less than 6%. Godda was a Congress stronghold until Dubey won in 2014.

Bengal has been seeing a triangular contest between the TMC, Congress, and BJP. The TMC and BJP have been involved in violent clashes in almost all phases of the 2019 elections in various constituencies in Bengal.

TMC is currently holding all nine seats that are up for election on Sunday.

In the state, the Jadavpur seat is a high-profile one that Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee and TMC Chief Mamata Banerjee have held. This year, TMC is fielding Mimi Chakraborty against former Kolkata mayor and CPI(M) leader Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, whose party has a strong presence in Javadpur.

The Economic Times also reported that of the 377 candidates in Bengal, 30 have assets over Rs 1 crore, making them crorepatis. South Kolkata’s Mita Chakraborty, a Congress candidate, is the richest with more than Rs 44 crore to her name. CPI(M)’s Bhattacharya follows with Rs 12 crore in assets.

What happens next?

With the end of phase 7, the 2019 Lok Sabha elections come to a close. Now, the nation will wait with bated breath as the EC counts the votes and declares a result on May 23.

Even the issue of vote counting has not been without controversy. The BJP and Opposition parties have been at loggerheads over whether EVMs are more reliable than VVPATs.

In April, the Supreme Court had heard a plea by the Opposition that was petitioning for 50% of all EVMs (electronic voting machines) in every parliamentary constituency to be confirmed by voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPAT).

However, the EC argued that increasing the number of VVPATs would also increase the amount of time it takes to count votes and delay the results.

Various opposition leaders, such as Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu, voiced doubts about the authenticity of EVMs and alleged that they are being pampered with to record excess votes in favour of the ruling party.

Naidu said that, during phase 1, Andhra Pradesh experienced EVM failure in 157 polling booths. He then accused the EC of muddling the election process by ignoring the issue.

“Top scientists have admitted that EVMs are vulnerable to tampering, hacking, memory manipulation, alteration of software code, programming error etc.” Naidu tweeted.

Leading up to the official declaration of results, all eyes will be on exit polls. Although exit polls are not always accurate, they still provide fodder for debate and discussion post elections.

Mint reports that Indian stock markets will fluctuate in the coming days as investors attempt to be cautious with their money. The BSE Sensex has also been down about 2,000 points since April 26, as anxiety mounted for the election results. Other analysts say the election results will have no long-term impact on the stock market.

A pre-poll survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies said that although the BJP will lose some seats to a more united Opposition, it will still be close to a majority mark.

Another major survey is the CVOTER-IANS survey that evaluated 1,05,000 people since January 2019 and adds 33,000 new respondents every week. This survey found that BJP’s seat count will be 210 and Congress’s 182.

If the UPA alliance oscillates like it is known to do, 167 seats that will likely be won by the SP, BSP, Trinamool Congress, and other regional parties will determine whether the BJP or Congress get a majority, says CVOTER-IANS.

Most news channels, such as India TV, Republic TV, Times Now, and India Today, that conducted their own polls arrived at similar findings—the NDA will lead but not by a significant margin.

Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius

Lok Sabha Elections 2019Uttar PradeshWest Bengal