The last leg of the general elections covers 16 states and Union territories and accounts for 182 seats, the largest chunk in the four-phased marathon.
Of the seats going to polls on Monday, the NDA holds 83 seats, the Congress and allies 51, the Left 39, the Samajwadi Party three and others six. But a crucial fact behind the figures have changed — the DMK, which was with the BJP last time, is now with the Congress. A look at the key states:
Thirty-nine seats in the state and one in Pondicherry give their verdict. In 1999, these 40 seats had proved the pollsters’ nightmare. In Tamil Nadu, the DMK held 12 seats, the ADMK 11, the PMK five, the MDMK four, the BJP four, the Congress two and the CPM one. The Pondicherry seat is held by the Congress.
Jayalalithaa has teamed up with the BJP and all other parties are with the DMK. The DMK-led Democratic Progressive Alliance is a formidable combination — all the parties together had a 57.73 per cent vote share in 1999. The vote share of the ADMK and the BJP in the last election was about 33 per cent. This, together with strong anti-incumbency, could point to a sweep by the DMK-led front. But a small swing in votes towards the ADMK could help it pick up some seats.
Seats to watch: Mayiladuthurai, where Mani Shankar Aiyar is contesting; Sivaganga, the seat of P. Chidambaram.
Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats go to the polls on Monday. In 1999, the Left Front’s tally was 29 of which the CPM had 22, the RSP three, the Forward Bloc two and the CPI two. On the other side, Trinamul Congress has eight seats, the BJP two and the Congress three.
Election 2004 may be a contest between A.B. Vajpayee and Sonia Gandhi in the rest of the country, but the CPM is hoping that the performance of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will help it wrest at least two seats in Calcutta. Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul is counting on what it perceives as an undercurrent of anti-incumbency against the Bhattacharjee government.
The Congress is banking on five seats in Muslim-dominated Murshidabad, Malda and North Dinajpur districts. The party got a morale-booster in Darjeeling after GNLF chief Subhas Ghisingh announced his support.
Seat to watch: Jangipur, where Pranab Mukherjee is trying to beat his election jinx.
The BJP will attempt to consolidate the slight lead it gai- ned in the last round when the remaining 18 seats in Uttar Pradesh go to polls.
The seats are spread over the west and the Rohilkhand region. In 1999, the BJP had picked up just four although both areas were considered its strongholds after 1991. This time, the party has to reckon with the formidable alliance forged by the Samajwadi Party and the Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal.
Seats to watch: Bulandshahr, where Kalyan Singh is in the fray; Pilibhit, where Maneka Gandhi is contesting for the first time under the BJP banner.
For the Congress, things cannot get worse. Out of the last 17 seats voting, the Congress is confident of only two. After the second round, the party appeared to be in the fight in at least 12 seats but the central leadership took no notice. No senior leader campaigned and there was an acute resource crunch.
Seat to watch: Rajgarh, where Digvijay Singh’s brother Laxman Singh is contesting as the BJP nominee.
The Congress-led United Democratic Front has the edge over the Left Democratic Front. As the two fronts have a thin vote margin between them, a minor swing can cause a difference in seats. Exit polls have galvanised the Congress. The Left has been caught in a bind trying to explain its ties with the Congress.
Seat to watch: Thiruvananthapuram, where Union minister . Rajagopal is trying his luck.
Another make-or-mar state for the NDA. The BJP holds all seven seats at present. But the Congress could benefit from the goodwill for Sheila Dixit.
Seat to watch: Chandni Chowk, where good bahu Smriti Irani takes on legal eagle Kapil Sibal.
A close contest in most of the 13 seats with the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance enjoying a thin edge, thanks mainly to anti-incumbency.
Seat to watch: Amritsar, where Navjot Singh Sidhu is making his debut.
The Indian National Lok Dal is facing anti-incumbency as the state’s 10 seats vote. Another handicap for the ruling party is that it is no longer in alliance with the BJP. In 1999, the two were allies and, helped by Kargil, had bagged five seats each. This time, it is a win-win situation for the Congress.