Mumbai, April 17: The biggest democratic festival of the country - the Lok Sabha elections are all set to kickstart with the first phase of the General polls taking place on Friday, April 19. Voting for the first phase of the Lok Sabha polls will cover 21 states and Union Territories. Thousands and lakhs of people in the 102 constituencies across 21 states and UTs will cast their votes on Friday, April 19, with some of the most important states being Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Bihar, Sikkim and Madhya Pradesh, among others.

The first phase of the general polls in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh to elect members of the 18th Lok Sabha will see key candidates such as Nitin Gadkari, Nakul Nath, Himadri Singh, Pratibha Dhanorkar, etc., and key constituencies being Chhindwara, Balaghat, Jabalpur, Sidhi, Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh and Nagpur, Chandrapur and Ramtek in Maharashtra. As the first phase of the general polls nears, we look at some important key candidates and their constituencies in the fray in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh's Lok Sabha polls. Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Phase 1 Polling To Begin on April 19, Check State-Wise List of Constituencies Going to Polls.

Key Constituencies in Maharashtra:

Of the five constituencies going to poll in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections from Maharashtra, the key seats include Chandrapur, Nagpur and Ramtek. Nagpur will be one of the country's most watched-out Lok Sabha seats as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded Union Minister and sitting MP Nitin Gadkari, who will be up against Congress leader Vikas Thakare. Gadkari won the Nagpur Lok Sabha seat in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It is to be seen if Gadkari can make a hattrick of wins or if Thakare can make a major upset.

The Ramtek Lok Sabha seat has been a Shiv Sena fortress since the last two Lok Sabha polls. However, this year, the seat reserved for the Scheduled Caste category will see a straight fight between Shyamkumar Barve of the Congress and Raju Parve of the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena. Earlier, Barve's wife Rashmi was supposed to contest from the Ramtek Lok Sabha seat; however, her nomination was cancelled, citing caste certificate validity. Maharashtra Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Amit Shah Takes a Jibe at Opposition, Says ‘Love for Son and Daughter Caused Split in Uddhav Thackeray-Led Shiv Sena, NCP Headed by Sharad Pawar’.

Chandrapur is another key constituency in Maharashtra that will poll on April 19. The seat will see a two-way fight between Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) candidate Pratibha Dhanorkar, Mahayuti leader, and BJP heavyweight Sudhir Mungantiwar. Dhanorkar is the widow of the late Suresh 'Balu' Dhanorkar, who secured Congress' sole victory during the 2019 general election. She was fielded from Chandrapur seat after her husband’s untimely demise.

Key Constituencies in Madhya Pradesh:

A total of six seats of the 29 Lok Sabha constituencies of Madhya Pradesh will be going to polls in the first phase. These seats are Chhindwara, Balaghat, Jabalpur, Mandla, Sidhi and Shahdol. Of the six seats, Chhindwara, Jabalpur and Shahdol are important. The Jabalpur Lok Sabha seat will see a direct fight between BJP's Ashish Dubey and Congress candidate Dinesh Yadav. The Jabalpur seat has been the saffron party's bastion since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Rakesh Singh won the 2014 and 2019 general polls with a huge margin and has been a sitting MP since the 2004 general polls. He has been replaced by Dubey.

For the Chhindwara Lok Sabha seat, the saffron party has fielded Vivek Bunty Sahu against sitting MP and Congress leader Nakul Nath, former Chief Minister Kamal Nath's son. The Chhindwara constituency in Madhya Pradesh has been a Congress fortress since the 1952 Lok Sabha polls. Kamal Nath himself won the seat record nine times. However, it is to be seen if Nakul Nath can retain the seat again, which he won in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Nath has defeated Vivek Bunty Sahu twice in the assembly polls. Lok Sabha Elections 2024: PM Narendra Modi, CMs of Five BJP-Ruled States Among Party’s 40 Star Campaigners for Madhya Pradesh.

Shahdol will witness a showdown between Congress leader Phundelal Singh Marko and Himadri Singh, a sitting MP and BJP leader. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Himadri Singh defeated Congress candidate Pramila Singh by over three lakh votes. In this election, Singh will be up against Phundelal Singh Marko of the INDIA Bloc. Will Himadri Singh make two in a row, or will Marko cause an upset? We will know on June 4.

Like the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, this year's general polls will be conducted in seven phases. Counting votes for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls will occur on June 4, with results declared on the same day.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Apr 17, 2024 12:46 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website