With campaigning for the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha elections coming to a close on Saturday, the contest in the VVIP constituencies of Amethi, Rae Bareli and Lucknow will be the most keenly watched.

Polling in the fifth phase of the polls will be held on Monday, May 6. Elections in this phase will be held in 14 Lok Sabha constituencies of Uttar Pradesh. These are Dhaurahra, Sitapur, Mohanlalganj (reserved), Lucknow, Rae Bareli, Amethi, Banda, Fatehpur, Kaushambi, Barabanki (reserved), Faizabad, Bahraich (reserved), Kaiserganj and Gonda.

Amethi, where Congress President Rahul Gandhi is pitted against Smriti Irani of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is poised to witness a keen contest between the two. Both Rahul and Smriti have left no stone unturned to consolidate their chances in the constituency which has come to be known as a Congress stronghold.

Irani had contested the Lok Sabha polls for the first time from Amethi in 2014. She lost to Rahul by a margin of over one lakh votes, but the victory margin was no cause for joy for the Congress and the Gandhi family as it was for the first time that the margin of victory had come down to less than two lakh votes. While Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had upped the ante while campaigning for her brother, Smriti Irani is banking on the work done in Amethi and her contact with the masses.

Rahul is seeking his fourth consecutive win from Amethi though in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections he is in the fray from Wayanad also. Polling in Wayanad in Kerala was held in the third phase on April 23.

In the neighbouring Rae Bareli, considered to be a bastion of the Gandhi family, the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is being challenged by a Congress turncoat, Dinesh Pratap Singh. Singh had deserted the Congress to join the BJP a fortnight before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls were announced by the Election Commission.

In Rae Bareli too, Sonia Gandhi’s campaign was shouldered by her daughter Priyanka Vadra.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who is seeking a second successive term from Lucknow, is pitted against Poonam Sinha of the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance and Acharya Pramod Krishnam of the Congress. The VVIP constituency of Lucknow is considered a BJP stronghold ever since former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee scripted his first victory from here in 1991. The former PM set a record by winning for five successive terms in 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha polls. In 2009, Vajpayee’s close aide Lalji Tandon won from Lucknow.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP fielded Rajnath Singh from Lucknow and he scored a comprehensive victory over his rivals.

Of the 14 constituencies where polling will be held on Monday, 12 had been won by the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Rae Bareli and Amethi were the only two seats won by the Congress in Uttar Pradesh in 2014.