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Campaigning ends for last phase LS polls

 NEW DELHI, May 17 - Campaigning for the last phase of the staggered Lok Sabha elections spread over more than a month drew to a close on Friday as top leaders sought to muster a final show of strength in the contest for 59 seats with Prime Minister Narendra Modi among those in the fray.

Polling will be held on Sunday in the seventh phase in all 13 seats in Punjab, as many seats in Uttar Pradesh, nine in West Bengal, eight seats each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, four in Himachal Pradesh, three in Jharkhand and Chandigarh.

Electioneering also drew to a close for the bypoll in Panaji, necessitated due to the death of former Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar in March.

In a first, campaigning in West Bengal came to an end 20 hours before the scheduled time on the orders of the Election Commission.

The poll body had on Wednesday ordered campaigning in West Bengal constituencies to end at 10 pm on Thursday in the wake of violence between the BJP and the TMC in Kolkata during Amit Shah’s roadshow.

The campaign was marked by attacks and counter-attacks by leaders across the political spectrum, and the use of derogatory language and objectionable remarks forced the EC to step in.

Adequate security arrangements have been made to conduct free, fair and peaceful elections, officials said.

BJP chief Amit Shah held a press conference in Delhi highlighting the government’s work. Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi was by his side and made some opening remarks, he did not take any questions.

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi also addressed a press conference in which he hit at the BJP and the government of the state of affairs in the country.

In Punjab, the high-octane poll campaigning witnessed blistering attacks by the Congress, the SAD-BJP and AAP with 1984 anti-Sikh riots and desecration of religious scriptures remaining the central themes of the political narrative.

The polling will decide the fate of SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar and Aam Aadmi Party’s Punjab unit chief Bhagwant Mann and also of two Union ministers – Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri.

In Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Modi is seeking re-election from Varanasi. The seventh phase of the polls will also decide the fate of 10 other BJP leaders, including Union minister Manoj Sinha, who is seeking re-election from Ghazipur, and Bhojpuri actor Ravi Kishan, who is trying to reclaim the saffron party’s stronghold Gorakhpur.

The polls will also decide the fate of eight candidates of Samajwadi Party and five of Bahujan Samaj Party of the SP-BSP alliance, which is being perceived as giving a tough fight to the BJP in the State.

Eight Lok Sabha seats in Bihar and three in Jharkhand will witness elections on Sunday. – PTI

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