First phase of the much awaited Lok Sabha elections is all set to begin on Thursday, where 91 parliamentary constituencies spread over 20 states and Union Territories (UTs) will vote to elect their representatives.
Among the constituencies going for polls in the first phase are - eight in Uttar Pradesh, five in Uttarakhand, four in Bihar, seven in Maharashtra, five in Assam, four in Odisha, two each in Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and West Bengal, and one each in Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.
Under the first phase of the Lok Sabha polls, around 1300 candidates are in the fray and there are nearly 170,000 polling stations. Polling will begin at 7 AM in most of these constituencies, barring a few which require special security measures.
In addition to the Lok Sabha polling, there will also be Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh, in addition to 28 of 147 assembly seats in Odisha.
The Lok Sabha elections will witness some interesting battles between top candidates from their respective constituencies. While the sitting MPs would be aiming to retain their seats, others are vying to unseat the incumbents and gain hold of that constituency.
Here is a look at some of the key constituencies and key players:
Hyderabad (Telangana) - An AIMIM stronghold since 1984, party chief Asaduddin Owaisi is seeking re-election from this constituency.
Khammam (Andhra Pradesh) - TDP sitting MP Nama Nageswara Rao is pitted against Congress leader Renuka Choudhary, who previously held the seat twice since 1999, but lost in the last two Lok Sabha polls.
Nizamabad (Telangana) - Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao''s daughter K Kavitha will be fighting against Congress'' Madhu Yakshi Gowd. Interestingly, there are 185 candidates in the fray and the Election Commission had to make special arrangements for EVMs to be used during polling.
Guntur (Andhra Pradesh) - Galla Jayadev, who is the sitting MP from this constituency, is the managing director of Amara Raja Group, an MNC firm. He is looking to retain his seat and is up against BJP''s Valluru Jayaprakash Narayana, Congress'' Shaik Mastan Vali and YSR Congress'' Modugula Venugopal Reddy.
In Andhra Pradesh, where Assembly elections will be held simultaneously with Lok Sabha polls, TDP chief and Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is contesting from Kuppam constituency, while his son Nara Lokesh is making his electoral debut from Mangalagiri seat.
In Pulivendula constituency, YSR Congress chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy is seeking re-election from his traditional family bastion.
Nagpur (Maharashtra) - This constituency will be keenly watched as Union Minister Nitin Gadkari will be contesting from the Orange City. He is pitted against Nana Patole, who joined Congress in January 2018, after leaving the BJP.
Chandrapur (Maharashtra) - MoS Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir is seeking re-election from this constituency. He is a three-time sitting MP.
In Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddh Nagar, Union Ministers General (retired) VK Singh and Mahesh Sharma are looking to retain their respective constituencies.
Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh) - The constituency gained attention in 2013 during the communal riots. An interesting electoral battle is expected to be witnessed where sitting BJP MP Sanjiv Balyan is facing prominent Jat leader and former Union minister Ajit Singh, the RLD chief.
Kairana (Uttar Pradesh) - Sitting MP Tabassum Hasan had won from this seat in the 2018 bypolls which was necessitated following the demise of then sitting MP and BJP leader Hukum Singh. Hasan is contesting from this seat on SP ticket, while the BJP has fielded Pradip Chaudhary instead of Mriganka Singh, Hukum Singh''s daughter.
Baghpat (Uttar Pradesh) - RLD chief Ajit Singh''s son Jayant Chaudhary is pitted against Union Minister and sitting MP Satyapal Singh of BJP.
In Bihar''s Jamui seat, Chirag Paswan, whose party LJP is a part of NDA will be contesting from this seat against Bhudeo Chaudhary of RLSP. While in Gaya, former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi is the ''mahagathbandhan'' candidate against JD(U)''s Vijay Kumar Manjhi, who was fielded by the BJP as part of their seat-sharing deal. The BJP currently holds the Gaya seat.
In the North-East, MoS Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju will take on former Chief Minister Nabam Tuki of Congress from Arunachal West seat. In Assam''s Kaliabor, former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi''s son Gaurav Gogoi is seeking re-election from this seat, which is a family bastion since 1991.
In Meghalaya''s Tura, another interesting electoral battle awaits where Agatha Sangha, sister of Chief Minister Conrad Sangma is pitted against Congress'' Mukul Sangma, a former Chief Minister of the state.
Nainital-Udhamsingh Nagar (Uttarakhand) - All eyes will be on this constituency as former Chief Minister Harish Rawat will be up against BJP state president Ajay Bhatt.
Garhwal (Uttarakhand) - Yet another electoral fight awaits where Manish Khanduri, son of former Chief Minister BC Khanduri, is contesting from this seat on a Congress. He is pitted against BJP''s Tirath Singh Rawat, who is a one-time BC Khanduri protege.
In Jammu and Kashmir, sitting BJP MP Jugal Kishore Sharma is up against Congress'' Raman Bhalla of Congress from Jammu constituency. Interestingly, regional parties NC and PDP have not fielded any candidates and are supporting the Congress.
Beginning today, the Lok Sabha polls will be conducted in seven phases till May 19. Counting of votes will take place on May 23.
Elaborate security arrangements have been put in place for the Lok Sabha elections and tight vigil is being maintained at interstate borders.
The Election Commission has appealed to the people to vote in large numbers to strengthen democracy.
"On Thursday will be first of the seven-phase elections for the 17th Lok Sabha. Approximately 90 crore voters will exercise their franchise. We appeal to the people of India to vote fearlessly so that foundations of our democracy get stronger," Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora had told ANI on Wednesday. (ANI)