New Delhi, March 23: Political heavyweights versus greenhorns, veteran journalists taking on the mighty, dynastic succession challenged by a newcomer, a faded filmstar stirring the political pot, and even a rebellious former army general trying his electoral pot luck – this general election has much to keep the 814-strong electorate actively engaged.
A look at some of the interesting constituencies and the evolving battles:
Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh): Varanasi district, home to the Hinduims’s ancient city, would witness the most interesting electoral battle – between BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and the rest. Aam Admi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal has said he will fight against Modi, but has yet to confirm it. The final announcement will be made on March 25. While the Congress has yet to name its candidate, the name of Modi baiter Digvijaya Singh has been doing the rounds. Mukhtar Ansari, of the Quami Ekta Dal, is expected to give Modi a strong fight as the constituency has a significant Muslim population. BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi had to vacate the seat to make way for Modi’s path to Delhi. Poll : May 12
Amethi (Uttar Pradesh): The bastion of the Nehru-Gandhi family and considered a safe seat for India’s first family, Amethi will have all eyes focused on it this time. Kumar Vishwas of the AAP has promised he will defeat sitting MP and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi “by a big margin” . The constituency, where Rahul’s uncle Sanjay Gandhi first entered the electoral battle in the 70s and later his father Rajiv Gandhi and his mother Sonia too fought and won, has been carefully nurtured by the Gandhi family. Rahul inaugurated 10 State Bank of India branches recently in the constituency. Vishwas claims he has been walking the length and breadth of the constituency and villagers complained to him that no development work has been done by the Congress. Poll: April 7.
Amritsar(Punjab): This important constituency, seat of Sikhism’s holiest shrine, will witness a battle between stalwarts – senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley and former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh. Jaitley, who has been a strong backer of Narendra Modi’s PM candidature and is expected to get an important portfolio if the BJP comes to power, was given the ticket for Amritsar in place of sitting party MP Navjyot Singh Sidhu, who has been representing the city that is home to the Golden Temple, since 2004. Capt Amarinder Singh, former state Congress president, was unwilling to contest but has bowed to the diktat of the party leadership. Poll: April 30.
Shimoga(Karnataka) : B.S. Yeddyurappa, the first BJP chief minister of southern India, who left the party in 2012 in the wake of corruption charges and returned in January this year, is a Lingayat strongman and has a major presence in this constituency. The seat is represented by his son B.Y. Raghavendra, a first-time MP, while the former chief minister represents Shikaripur in the state assembly. The Congress has fielded Manjunath Bhandari, a businessman and member of the AICC who is a fresher in electoral politics. The other major contender is Geetha Shivakumar, the daughter of late chief minister S. Bangarappa and wife of leading Kannada filmstar Shivarajkmar, from the Janata Dal- Secular. She is also a fresher in politics. Poll: April 17.
Bangalore South(Karnataka): This key constituency, which has remained with the BJP for a long time, will see sitting MP Ananth Kumar challenged by IT czar and Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, who is fighting on a Congress ticket. Kumar, the BJP general secretary, has won the seat five times in a row. The third key contestant is Nina Nayak, a well known child rights activist, who is contesting on the AAP ticket. Nilekani, who handled the UPA government’s Unique Identification (UID) project, is quite popular and has been interacting with the people, especially the youth, of the constituency. Poll: April 17.
Chandigarh: Former railwayminister Pawan Kumar Bansal of the Congress, who had to quit over a railway bribery scandal last year, is fighting against two women from the film world this time — AAP candidate Gul Panag and actor-politician Kirron Kher of the BJP. The Chandigarh seat, which has seen a see-saw battle between the Congress and BJP since 1991, has been represented by Bansal in the 10th, 13th, 14th and 15th Lok Sabha. In 2004 and 2009, he defeated the BJP’s Satya Pal Jain by over 45,000 and 58,000 votes, respectively. Poll: April 10.
New Delhi: The prestigious New Delhi constituency will have an interesting contest. Congress general secretary Ajay Maken, the sitting MP since 2004, is confident of winning the third time. He is pitted against Meenakshi Lekhi, a lawyer and the BJP’s national spokesperson, AAP’s Ashish Khetan, a journalist and founder of gulail.com, and Trinamool Congress (TMC’s) Biswajit Chatterjee, yesteryears’ film hero. The TMC fielded the former star keeping in mind the Bengali “vote bank” of Chittarajan Park and his admirers. Poll: April 10.
Chandni Chowk: The battle for this seat will be interesting, with the Aam Aadmi Party pitting Ashutosh, former managing editor of IBN7, against union minister and sitting MP Kapil Sibal. Sibal, who has held several high profile ministries, won the seat in 2004, by defeating BJP’s Smriti Irani and in 2009, against BJP’s Vijender Gupta by over 200,000 votes. This time, the BJP has fielded Harsh Vardhan, the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the Delhi assembly polls. The constituency has a sizeable Muslim population. Poll: April 10.
Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala): Union minister Shashi Tharoor, the sitting MP, will face former union minister and BJP leader O. Rajagopal, CPI-M’s Bennet Abraham, a relatively non-political candidate and Ajith Joy, a former Indian Police Service officer who is contesting as an AAP candidate. Tharoor, who lost his wife Sunanda Pushkar recently, is known to be popular among the youth. The constituency has a large number of educated government employees populating the urban areas. Rajagopal is a popular name in the state, from the time he was union minister of state for railways and parliamentary affairs during the NDA rule. Poll: April 10.
Ghaziabad(Uttar Pradesh): The fight for the Ghaziabad seat would prove interesting with the AAP’s senior leader Shazia Ilmi to fight against former army chief V.K. Singh of the BJP. The seat falls in the National Capital Region (NCR) where AAP enjoys support. The seat was represented by BJP president Rajnath Singh, who is now contesting from Lucknow. The Congress nominee is actor Raj Babbar. Poll: April 10.
(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at email@example.com)