New Delhi, May 17: Campaigning in the bitterly-fought high-stakes Lok Sabha elections, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a second term, came to an end this evening with parties making claims about their victory ahead of polling in 59 constituencies spread over six states and one union territory on May 19. In West Bengal, campaigning in the last nine constituencies ended on Thursday night after the Election Commission cut short electioneering by a day in the wake of violence during BJP president Amit Shah's road show on Tuesday.
The seventh and final phase will cover 13 seats in Uttar Pradesh; all 13 in Punjab, nine in West Bengal, eight each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, all four constituencies in Himachal Pradesh, three in Jharkhand and the lone seat of Chandigarh. A total of 918 candidates are in the fray to test their destiny in the last phase. Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Caste-Based Parties Will Be Critical During Final Phase in Uttar Pradesh.
Those whose fortunes will be decided in the final phase are Modi in Varanasi, former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal (Ferozepur), his wife and union minister Harsimrat Kaur (Bhatinda), another union minister Hardeep Puri (Amritsar) and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's wife Praneet Kaur in (Patiala) (all in Punjab), three-time MP Anurag Thakur in Himachal Pradesh's Hamirpur, former Jharkhand chief minister Shibu Soren (Dumka) and former union minister P K Bansal, who faces sitting MP Kirron Kher in Chandigarh.
Winding up the gruelling campaign that lasted over 50 days, Modi addressed a meeting in Khargaon in Madhya Pradesh, claiming that the BJP and the NDA would return to power with more than 300 seats. But opposition leaders predicted a rout for the BJP saying Modi would be shown the door. However, they were not sure who would be their prime minister.
"I am not in the race for running a government. I will be steering the nation," Modi said in an interview before close of campaigning which witnessed highly personal attacks by leaders against each other. Modi had termed former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi as "corrupt no 1" while Rahul Gandhi kept chanting the slogan of "chowkidar chor hai" in reference to Modi.
While Modi led the NDA campaign assisted by his party president Amit Shah and other leaders, the Congress charge was led by Rahul Gandhi, aided by his sister Priyanka Gandhi and other leaders. BSP Chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav came together to form a mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) to take on the BJP juggernaut in Uttar Pradesh and held rallies in all regions of the politically-crucial Uttar Pradesh which has 80 seats in Lok Sabha.
Other regional parties tied up among themselves against BJP and NDA in several states. Modi, who is contesting from Varanasi, did not go for campaigning to his constituency Varanasi where he did a massive road ahead of filing of nominations. Congress leader Ajay Rai, who lost to Modi in the last elections, will again face the prime minister while SP has fielded Shalini Yadav.Results will be announced on May 23.