Campaign ends for last phase

NEW DELHI, May 17:  Campaigning in the bitterly fought marathon Lok Sabha elections spread over 38 days drew to a close today as top leaders made a final push in the seventh and concluding phase for the remaining 59 seats that included Varanasi where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to retain the seat.
The high octane campaign marked by vitriolic attacks and counter-attacks by political leaders and use of derogatory language and objectionable remarks that forced the Election Commission to step in ended at 6 pm.
Polling will be held on Sunday in the seventh phase in all 13 seats in Punjab and an equal number of seats in Uttar Pradesh, nine in West Bengal, eight seats each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, four in Himachal Pradesh, three in Jharkhand and the lone seat Chandigarh.
In a first, campaigning in West Bengal came to an end on Thursday, 20 hours before the scheduled time, on the orders of the Election Commission in the aftermath of violence between the BJP and the ruling TMC in Kolkata during BJP chief Amit Shah’s roadshow.
After the close of voting the focus will shift to exit polls which are not always known to be correct.
Counting of votes in the world’s largest exercise in democracy will be taken up on May 23.
The regional parties and the Congress are making a determined bid to keep the NDA out of power in the event of hung Parliament and have begun informal parleys.
On the last day of the campaign, BSP president Mayawati termed the BSP-SP-RLD alliance a combine of ideas and said it will not sit silent till it uproots the Yogi Adityanath Government from Uttar Pradesh and the Modi Government from the Centre.
Modi and Shah spearheaded the BJP challenge and crisscrossed the country addressing scores of rallies.
The Nehru-Gandhi family made a vigorous push for votes with Rahul, and his sister Priyanka Gandhi leading the party challenge.
Sonia and Rahul are contesting from the family pocketborough in Rae Bareli and Amethi in UP where the Congress president is pitted against BJP’s Smriti Irani. Rahul is also contesting from a second seat in Wayanad in Kerala.
On the last day of the campaign, Priyanka Gandhi dubbed Modi as an “actor” and said it would have been better if Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan was made the Prime Minister.
Modi whipped up nationalistic sentiments and repeatedly invoked the Balakote air strikes into his campaign speeches to woo voters and also launched an allout offensive against the Congress.
Rahul Gandhi’s campaign plank was centred over his farm loan waiver promise and the alleged irregularities in the Rafale jet deal. He also accused Modi of practicing the culture of crony capitalism. (PTI)