NEW DELHI, May 12: Voting began on Sunday across 59 Lok Sabha constituencies spread over seven states, largely in the Hindi heartland, as the sixth and penultimate round of the mega seven-phase electoral exercise kicked off.
A total electorate of 10.17 crore is eligible to exercise their franchise in this phase, which covers 14 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, eight each in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal and four in Jharkhand as well as all 10 seats of Haryana and seven in Delhi.
Prominent among the 879 candidates in this phase include three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who faces state BJP chief Manoj Tiwari in Delhi North East, Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav from Uttar Pradesh's Azamgarh, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh against BJP's Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur in Bhopal, former cricketer Gautam Gambhir (BJP) is contesting against AAP's Atishi in East Delhi and Olympian boxer Vijendra Singh (Congress) is the fray from South Delhi.
Also contesting are Union Ministers Maneka Gandhi, from UP's Sultanpur, Radha Mohan Singh from Bihar's East Champaran, Harsh Vardhan from Delhi's Chandni Chowk and Rao Inderjeet Singh from Gurugram, Congress' General Secretary (West UP) Jyotiraditya Scindia from Madhya Pradesh's Guna, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda from Sonipat while Bengali film hero Deepak Adhikari 'Dev' (Trinamool Congress) will lock horns with the BJP's Bharati Ghosh, a former IPS officer and once a trusted lieutenant of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in Ghatal.
In this phase, the BJP will be defending 45 seats -- seven of the eight seats in Bihar, eight of 10 in Haryana, all four in Jharkhand, seven of eight in Madhya Pradesh, 12 of 14 in Uttar Pradesh and all seven in Delhi.
BJP's allies Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Apna Dal had won one seat each in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, respectively. The Congress had won two seats - Guna and Rohtak - while the Samajwadi Party and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) had won one seat apiece in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, respectively.
The Trinamool had won all the eight seats going to the polls in the sixth phase in West Bengal.
The seven-phase Lok Sabha elections started on April 11 and would conclude on May 19. Counting of votes will take place on May 23. - IANS