IANS

Advancing to its midpoint, India's electoral festival will, in its fourth phase on Monday, encompass 96 Lok Sabha constituencies across 10 states and a UT, spanning the heartland of Maharashtra to West Bengal's industrial and cultural hubs, and the verdant mountains of Jammu and Kashmir to the varied topography of Andhra Pradesh.

Along with the parliamentary seats, elections will be held simultaneously to the Assemblies of Andhra Pradesh (all 175 seats), and Odisha (28 seats out of 147). While in Andhra, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy faces the determined TDP-JSP-BJP coalition trying to wrest the state back from his YSRCP, in Odisha, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is trying to win the 6th consecutive election for his BJD against a combative BJP.

While voting in the parliamentary elections will continue in Uttar Pradesh (13 seats), Bihar (5), West Bengal (8), Maharashtra (11), Madhya Pradesh (8), and Jammu and Kashmir (1), the electoral process will kick off in Andhra Pradesh (all 25 seats), Telangana (all 17), Odisha (4), and Jharkhand (4).

A total of 17.7 crore electors (8.97 crore male, 8.73 crore female) will head to 1.92 lakh polling stations on Monday to decide the electoral fortune of 1,717 candidates in the fray.

Prominent among them are Union Ministers Arjun Munda (Khunti-ST, Jharkhand), Nityanand Rai (Ujiarpur, Bihar), and Ajay Mishra Teni (Kheri, Uttar Pradesh), Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the Congress, who faces former cricketer Yusuf Pathan (Trinamool Congress) in West Bengal's Baharampur, and filmstar-turned politician Shatrughan Singh of the Trinamool in West Bengal's Asansol.

Other key battlegrounds include Hyderabad, which is witnessing a significant showdown between the BJP's Madhavi Latha and sitting MP Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMIM, West Bengal's Krishnanagar, where expelled Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra faces the BJP's Amrita Roy, Bihar's Begusarai, where Union Minister Giriraj Singh competes against CPI candidate Awadhesh Rai, and Uttar Pradesh's Kannauj, where Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav challenges sitting BJP MP Subrat Pathak.

Janata Dal-United leader Rajiv Ranjan Singh (Lalan Singh) faces RJD leader Anita Devi in Bihar’s Munger in what is being rated as another interesting fight, while National Conference's Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi challenges PDP's Waheed Para in Srinagar, and cricketer-turned-politician Kirti Azad (Trinamool) takes on BJP's Dilip Ghosh in West Bengal's Bardhaman-Durgapur.

In Mahashtra's Beed, BJP's Pankaja Munde, fielded in place of sitting MP and younger sister Pritam Munde, faces NCP-SP's candidate Bajrang Sonawane, Andhra Pradesh Congress chief Y.S. Sharmila takes on cousin and sitting MP Avinash Reddy in Kadapa and her BJP counterpart D. Purandeshwari will contest from the state's Rajahmundry, and in Madhya Pradesh's Ratlam, veteran tribal leader and former Union Minister Kantilal Bhuria (Congress) takes on BJP's Anita Chouhan, the wife of state Minister Nagar Singh Chouhan.

Another key contest will be Maharashtra's Raver, where sitting MP Raksha Khadse -- daughter-in-law of veteran leader Eknath Khadse, who is set to soon rejoin the BJP -- faces an acid test to win for the third time, as she faces industrialist and NCP-SP nominee, Shriram Patil, and in the state's Jalna, Union Minister Raosaheb Danve, expecting a win for the sixth consecutive term, is pitted against Congress' Kalyanrao Kale.

As per an IMD forecast, there is no significant concern regarding hot weather conditions for the polling in this phase. Poll authorities have ensured assured minimum facilities like drinking water, sheds for shade from the sun, toilets, ramps, volunteers, and wheelchairs to ensure that every voter, including the elderly and persons with disabilities, can cast their vote with ease.

With this phase, elections to decide 379 MPs will be over and also conclude in Madhya Pradesh, as well as Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

The first three phases have already decided the fate of 284 MPs concluded for all constituencies in several states including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Meghalaya, Assam, Manipur, Karnataka, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, as well as the UTs of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep, and Puducherry.

The upcoming phases will continue to shape the political landscape which will now move northwards too, with the fifth phase (49 seats) on May 20, followed by the sixth on May 25 (58 seats), and the final phase on June 1 (57 seats). Counting will take place on June 4.

(Except for the headline, this story, from a syndicated feed, has not been edited by Odishatv.in staff)

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