New Delhi, Apr 16 (PTI): India on Thursday will vote for the largest number of seats in a single phase during the current elections to the Lok Sabha, with 121 constituencies across 12 states up for grabs.
Nandan Nilekani, Maneka Gandhi, former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, Union Minister Veerappa Moily, Srikant Jena, Supriya Sule and Lalu Prasad's eldest daughter Misa Bharti are among the 1,769 candidates in the fifth of the nine-phased elections.
An electorate of 166.1 million will decide their fate.
Of the total seats, Congress has 36 while its main challenger, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has 40 seats.
Polling will take place in 28 seats in Karnataka, followed by Rajasthan (20), Maharashtra (19), Uttar Pradesh and Odisha (11 each), Madhya Pradesh (10), Bihar (seven), Jharkhand (six), West Bengal (four), Chhattisgarh (three), Jammu & Kashmir and Manipur (one each).
Karnataka witnessed intense campaign by both national as well as state bigwigs for a sharply bipolar fight. Prominent candidates in the fray include Nandan Nilekani (Cong), former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda (JD-S) and Union Minister Veerappa Moily (Cong).
So far polling has been held in 111 constituencies in four phases. In the last substantial round 91 seats went to polls on April 10.
Out of 28 seats in Karnataka, BJP has 18 sitting MPs, Congress 8 and JDS 1.
In Maharashtra, 358 candidates including stalwarts like Union Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, ex-Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, BJP leader Gopinath Munde and NCP leaders Supriya Sule and Nilesh Rane will test their electoral fate.
Nineteen seats are going for elections in this phase where Congress has six sitting MPs, BJP two, Shiv Sena four and NCP three. There is also an independent MP.
In Bihar, 117 candidates are in the fray including Lalu's daughter Misa Bharti and her two uncles Ramkripal Yadav and Ranjan Yadav. Out of the seven seats going to poll Thursday, JDU has four sitting MPs, and the BJP and RJD have one each.
In 11 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, over 18 million voters will decide the fate of 151 candidates, including stalwarts such as former Union minister Maneka Gandhi, who is back to her traditional seat Pilibhit on a BJP ticket. In these seats, SP has four sitting MPs, BJP 2, Cong 1 and BSP and RLD have one each.
In 11 Lok Sabha and 77 Assembly seats in Odisha, the fate of 98 candidates, including 11 women would be decided in the Lok Sabha elections.
Prominent LS candidates are Congress stalwart and Union Minister Srikant Jena and former Union Minister Arjun Sethi of BJD.
Six Lok Sabha seats figure in the second phase of polling in Jharkhand. Among the 106 nominees, prominent are Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Karia Munda of BJP as also Jayant Sinha, son of former Union minister Jaswant Sinha, and former Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahay of Congress.
The fate of 239 candidates will be decided in Rajasthan. Out of the 20 seats going to poll on Thursday, Congress has 15 sitting MPs while BJP has four.
Four constituencies of West Bengal -- Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Alipurduar -- will go to poll on Thursday. The four seats are held by AIFB, RSP, CPI(M), BJP.
A closely-fought contest is anticipated in the Darjeeling constituency between GJM-backed BJP candidate S S Ahluwalia and Trinamool Congress candidate Baichung Bhutia, the two representing the two sides of a bitter war over statehood for the hills.
In Chhattisgarh, three seats - all held by the ruling BJP -- will go to poll. An electorate of 45,56,051 will decide the fate of 50 candidates, including five women.
In Madhya Pradesh, 142 candidates will battle it out for 10 seats.
For the lone seat in Jammu & Kashmir, 14 lakh voters will decide the fate of 18 candidates.
In Manipur, eight candidates are in the fray for the lone Lok Sabha seat.