Abdullah said that the train launch will help boost tourism and congratulated PM Modi and Railways.
The Lok Sabha elections 2019 were one of the most highly-charged parliamentary elections in the country in recent years. Nearly all the big names in Indian politics contested. Many new faces emerged and new political parties were formed.
Thus there were old warhorses and first-timers in almost every major party contesting in the elections for the 17th Lok Sabha which was held in seven phases across 542 constituencies of the country.
Though the principal parties have been the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, one of the major highlights in this election season was the emergence of a non-BJP and non-Congress alliance led by not one but a bunch of powerful regional leaders from the east and the south of the country. Also, the coming together of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh had making of a history written all over it.
The fight has been tight on many seats, but some are being watched keenly because of the contesting candidates. Here is a look at crucial seats to watch out for.
Nagpur – BJP’s Nitin Gadkari versus Congress’ Nana Patole
Union minister Nitin Gadkari is the sitting MP from this seat. He won it in 2014 defeating Vilas Muttemwar of Congress. This time, the grand old party has fielded Nana Patole, who as a BJP candidate defeated high-profile Union minister and NCP leader Praful Patel by 149,254 votes in Bhandara-Gondiya constituency in 2014, against the BJP heavyweight.
Who might win: Nitin Gadkari
Why: Because of his personal image and the work done by him as Minister of Road Transport and Highways.
Mumbai North – Gopal Chinayya Shetty of BJP versus Congress’s Urmila Matondkar
Sitting MP Gopal Chinayya Shetty is up against the political newcomer Urmila Matondkar. The seat had been held by the Congress for two terms before Shetty, but was a BJP stronghold from 1989-1999. Matondkar, an actor-turned-politician, was in the news for an alleged “anti-Hindu” remark over which a police complaint was filed in April.
Who might win: Gopal Chinayya Shetty
Why: The seasoned politician has a strong chance of prevailing over a complete newcomer with no political background.
Barmer – Kailash Choudhary of BJP versus Manvendra Singh of Congress
Singh is a former BJP MP and son of former Union minister Jaswant Singh. Choudhary replaced sitting BJP MP Sona Ram Choudhary.
Who might win: Manvendra Singh
Why: Rajasthan is now has Congress rule and Barmer has voted Congress and BJP alternately since 2004.
Bangalore South – Tejasvi Surya of BJP versus BK Hariprasad of Congress
This is one of the most watched constituencies in this election because of BJP candidate Tejasvi Surya. The young lawyer from Bengaluru, who is only 28, was picked by the party over Tejaswini Ananth Kumar, the wife of late Union Minister and MP from Bangalore South Ananth Kumar. His opponent is Congress Rajya Sabha MP BK Hariprasad.
Who might win: Tejasvi Surya
Why: Surya is seen as a sort of star among the young supporters of BJP.
Uttara Kannada – Ananth Kumar Hegde of BJP versus Anand Asnotikar of the JD(S)
Sitting MP and Union minister Ananth Kumar Hegde has been holding the seat for the third consecutive term. Uttara Kannada is a BJP stronghold. In last year’s assembly elections, five of the eight assembly constituencies here went to the BJP.
Who might win: Ananth Kumar Hegde
Why: Hegde’s work both as a Union minister and as an MP from the seat. Plus BJP’s popularity.
Thoothukudi – BJP’s Tamilisai Soundararajan versus K Kanimozhi of DMK
Created in 2008, Thoothukudi constituency has been held once by DMK and AIADMK each. Tamilisai Soundararajan is the state BJP chief. Thoothukudi is one of the five seats from where the BJP is contesting in Tamil Nadu as part of an alliance with AIADMK. Kanimozhi, a DMK MP from Rajya Sabha, is contesting Lok Sabha elections for the first time.
Who might win: K Kanimozhi
Why: Kanimozhi is one of the most recognisable leaders from Tamil Nadu in the country and a powerful figure in the state. Add to it the anti-incumbency factor that might work for DMK.
Mathura – Hema Malini of BJP versus Narendra Singh of RLD versus Mahesh Pathak of Congress
BJP MP Hema Malini is seeking re-election from this seat. Surprisingly, RLD fielded Narendra Singh, a non-Jat, in this Jat-dominated constituency. Pathak, on the other hand, first contested LS polls in 1998 but lost.
Who might win: Hema Malini
Why: The strong Modi wave might work in her favour, besides the fact that opposition parties have not fielded particularly strong candidates.
Rampur – Jaya Prada of BJP versus Azam Khan of SP
This was one of the hotly contested seats, currently held by BJP. Jaya Prada, a former SP leader, joined BJP and got a ticket to fight against SP strongman Azam Khan. Both leaders grabbed headlines for their remarks. Though a backyard of Khan, he never contested for Parliament till before this election. Prada won this seat twice in the past as an SP candidate.
Who might win: Azam Khan
Why: Rampur, a Muslim-majority seat, is Khan’s bastion.
Rae Bareli – Congress’ Sonia Gandhi versus Dinesh Pratap Singh of BJP
One of the two traditional bastions of the Gandhi family, Rae Bareli has voted a Congress leader to power since Independence, except on three occasions. Gandhi has been contesting and winning from this seat since 2004. Dinesh Pratap Singh is a former Congress leader and MLC who left the party in 2018.
Who might win: Sonia Gandhi
Why: Traditional Congress seat and Gandhi’ stature as a national leader.
Amethi – Rahul Gandhi of Congress versus Smriti Irani of BJP
The other traditional bastion of the Gandhi family, Amethi was the seat from where Sonia Gandhi made her entry into Parliament. Rahul Gandhi took over in 2004 and has held it since. But this time he is facing his biggest political test in the form of Union minister Smriti Irani, who had come very close to defeating him in the last Lok Sabha elections. Gandhi is for the first time contesting on another seat beside Amethi.
Who might win: It is a seat which can really go either way.
Why: The fact that Gandhi picked a second seat raised a lot of questions. Irani, on the other hand, has been on the ground in Amethi.
Varanasi – Narendra Modi versus Congress’ Ajay Rai versus Shalini Yadav of Mahagathbandhan
This is the most important constituency in this election because of its stature as the seat of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who won by a record margin last year, defeating Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal. Congress’ Ajay Rai was in the fray too. BSP-SP-RLD’s Shalini Yadav was picked as the candidate after the candidature of former BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav was rejected.
Who might win: Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Why: The Narendra Modi factor.
Gorakhpur – BJP’s Ravi Kishan versus Congress’ Madhusudan Tiwari versus Rambhuaal Nishad of Mahagathbandhan
Will the BJP be able to wrest this seat from incumbent SP? Gorakhpur is the backyard of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath but the seat went to the opposition party in the by-election held in 2018. SP-BSP-RLD fielded Rambhuaal Nishad and Congress played the Brahmin card with Madhusudan Tiwari. Ravi Kishan is an actor-turned-politician who is contesting for the first time.
Who might win: Ravi Kishan
Why: Modi wave might work in favour of BJP. Also, the turnout in 2018 was just 47 per cent. In 2019, it jumped 10 percentage points to around 58 per cent. When Adityanath last won it, the turnout was 54.67 per cent.
Gandhinagar – BJP chief Amit Shah versus Congress’ CJ Chavda
The BJP chief is contesting a Lok Sabha election for the first time. Gandhinagar is a BJP bastion and has been the seat of LK Advani six times. Chavda is an MLA from the seat.
Who might win: Amit Shah
Why: The BJP factor and Shah’s own stature as the chief of the ruling party.
Wayanad – Congress president Rahul Gandhi versus BJP ally Bharath Dharma Jana Sena’s Thushar Vellapally versus LDF’ PP Suneer
This is the second seat from which Congress chief Gandhi is contesting the Lok Sabha elections. Formed in 2009, Wayanad has been a Congress seat since. Vellapally is the state convener of NDA in Kerala.
Who might win: Rahul Gandhi
Why: Strong Congress hold and Gandhi’s image.
Thiruvananthapuram – Congress’ Shashi Tharoor versus Kummanam Rajasekharan of the BJP versus LDF’s C Divakaran
Held by either the Communists or the Congress, the Kerala capital sent Shashi Tharoor twice to the Lok Sabha. This time, however, he is up against former Mizoram Governor and former Kerala BJP chief Kummanam Rajasekharan, whose credentials as a capable leader are very strong. Divakaran is an MLA and former minister in the state government. BJP is looking to open its Kerala account in the Lok Sabha from this seat.
Who might win: Can go either way, but Rajasekharan stands a strong chance
Why: Rajasekharan’s image and, perhaps, an anti-incumbency in Tharoor’s case.
Pathanamthitta – K Surendran of BJP versus Anto Antony of Congress versus LDF’s Veena George
The Sabarimala temple is in this constituency. The politics over the temple gives K Surendran of BJP a very strong chance at winning from this seat. Anto Antony is the current MP who has held the seat since its formation in 2009. George is an MLA.
Who might win: Anto Antony
Why: The sitting MP enjoys strong support, and Congress stand on the Sabarimala verdict might help it garner votes of Hindu devotees.
Puri – Sambit Patra of BJP versus Satya Prakash Nayak of Congress versus Pinaki Misra of BJD
Puri has been a stronghold of BJD, and Misra is the sitting MP from here. This is the first time Sambit Patra is contesting a Lok Sabha election.
Who might win: Pinaki Misra
Why: BJD has a strong voter base.
Kendrapara – Baijayant Panda of BJP versus Anubhav Mohanty of BJD
Two-time MP from Kendrapara, Panda left the BJD for the BJP. He is now contesting from this seat against Rajya Sabha MP and popular regional film star Anubhav Mohanty.
Who might win: Baijayant Panda
Why: Panda has a personal base in the constituency and had always been on the ground with the people since he became an MP.
Begusarai – Communist Party of India’s (CPI) Kanhaiya Kumar versus BJP’s Giriraj Singh
This seat is in the spotlight for Kanhaiya Kumar. The former JNU student leader is up against BJP heavyweight and Union minister Giriraj Singh. While this is Kumar’s first LS election, Singh is contesting from Begusarai for the first time.
Who might win: Giriraj Singh
Why: Begusarai has been a JD(U) or BJP seat since 2014. The JD(U) is BJP’s ally in the NDA. Thus, Singh has an advantage. The only time Communists won from Begusarai was in 1967.
Patna Sahib – BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad versus Congress’ Shatrughan Sinha
Another of Bihar’s most-watched seats, sitting MP Shatrughan Sinha quit the BJP and held the Congress hand before the elections. He is now again in the fray. Against him is Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is contesting an LS election for the first time.
Who might win: Ravi Shankar Prasad
Why: Since its formation in 2009, Patna Sahib has voted for BJP. Sinha won by over 50 per cent of votes polled on both occasions. However, Sinha’s anti-Modi stance might not help him this time.
Asansol – Babul Supriyo of BJP versus Biswarup Mondal of Congress versus Sreemati Dev Varma (Moon Moon Sen) of TMC
One of the only two seats the BJP won from the state in 2014, Asansol witnessed violence during polling. The strongest contender against Supriyo, the sitting MP and Union minister, is TMC’s Moon Moon Sen, a sitting MP from Bankura, who is contesting from this seat for the first time.
Who might win: Babul Supriyo
Why: The BJP wave in Bengal has never been stronger than now. Additionally, Supriyo has built a reputation for himself as an MP.
Medinipur – BJP’s Dilip Ghosh versus Congress’ Sambhunath Chatterjee versus TMC’s Manas Bhunia
Ghosh, the BJP state president, is in a three-cornered contest against Congress’ Sambhunath Chatterjee versus TMC’s Manas Bhunia. The BJP chief is being credited for the party wave in the state. On the other hand, TMC fielded Bhunia instead of sitting MP Sandhya Roy.
Who might win: Dilip Ghosh
Why: Again, the BJP wave in Bengal, largely due to his leadership.
Ghatal – BJP’s Bharati Ghosh versus TMC’s Deepak Adhikari aka Deb verus Congress’ Khandakar Mohammad Saifullah
There was reported violence against former IPS officer and now BJP candidate Ghosh in this seat. It is currently held by actor-turned-politician Deb.
Who might win: Deb
Why: Deb’s personal image and the TMC clout in this seat.
Diamond Harbour – Abhishek Banerjee of TMC versus Nilanjan Roy of BJP versus Soumya Aich Roy of Congress versus Fuad Halim of CPI(M)
Sitting MP Banerjee is the nephew of TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Roy, on the other hand, is a first-timer in LS polls.
Who might win: Abhishek Banerjee
Why: This is a prestige seat for the TMC and the party has not left any stone unturned to ensure a win for Mamata Banerjee’s nephew.
East Delhi – Gautam Gambhir of BJP versus Arvinder Singh Lovely of Congress versus AAP’s Atishi
Gambhir has been in the news ever since he joined BJP. But he is up against two strong leaders – Lovely and Atishi. It is for the first time that cricketer-turned-politician is contesting elections.
Who might win: Gautam Gambhir
Why: Splitting of votes might go in favour of the BJP in this constituency.
New Delhi – BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi versus AAP’s Brijesh Goyal versus Congress’ Ajay Maken
Sitting MP Meenakshi Lekhi will again be facing challenge from Maken, just like in 2014.
Who might win: Meenakshi Lekhi
Why: The Modi wave and the splitting of votes between Congress and AAP.