India election 2024 Phase 2: Who votes and what’s at stake?

Across 13 states, 88 constituencies go to the polls on April 26 in the second phase of the world’s largest election.

The juggernaut of India’s mammoth parliamentary elections rolls into the second of seven phases on April 26 with all eyes on the southern states of Kerala and Karnataka.

The contenders in round two include a former leader of India’s main opposition who has never won a general election for his party, a former top United Nations official and author, and an erstwhile Bollywood star who is running for a third time but has disappointed her constituency by her absence on the ground.

India’s general elections for 543 seats in the lower house of parliament, or Lok Sabha, kicked off on April 19. The results of the world’s largest-ever democratic exercise are set to be announced on June 4.

With 969 million registered voters – or more than the combined population of the United States, the European Union and Russia – India has the largest electorate in the world.

Apart from numerous regional and national hopefuls, the two main alliances are the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and a coalition of 28 parties called the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), led by the main opposition Indian National Congress, welded by the aim of unseating the BJP.

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Who votes in Phase 2?

Voters from these 88 constituencies from 13 states and union territories will go to the ballot box:

  • Kerala: All 20 of the southern state’s seats
  • Rajasthan: 13 of the western state’s 25 seats
  • Karnataka: 14 of the southern state’s 28 seats
  • Uttar Pradesh: Eight of the northern state’s 80 seats
  • Madhya Pradesh: Six of the central state’s 29 seats
  • Assam: Five of the eastern state’s 14 seats
  • Chhattisgarh: Three of the central state’s 11 seats
  • Bihar: Five of the eastern state’s 40 seats
  • Maharashtra: Eight of the western state’s 48 seats
  • West Bengal: Three of the eastern state’s 42 seats
  • Tripura: One of the northeastern state’s two seats
  • Jammu and Kashmir: One of the union territory’s five seats
  • Manipur: Parts of one of the northeastern state’s two seats, which voted in the first phase, will also vote on April 26.

Which are some of the key constituencies?

  • Wayanad, Kerala: Prominent opposition leader Rahul Gandhi will face-off against left-wing candidate Annie Raja of the Communist Party of India, as he fights to hold onto the constituency that elected him in 2019. Both Gandhi’s Congress and the communists are part of the national opposition INDIA alliance but are rivals in Kerala. Gandhi is the son, grandson and great-grandson of former prime ministers, but his Congress party has suffered two landslide defeats against the BJP. Also running is the BJP’s state president K Surendran. Wayanad has been a Congress stronghold since the 2009 elections. Kerala is the only major Indian state that has never elected a BJP member of parliament.
  • Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala: Shashi Tharoor – a senior Congress member, ex-minister, former UN undersecretary-general and author – is seeking re-election for a fourth consecutive term. His main opponent is the BJP’s Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a junior information technology minister, with the ruling party hoping for victory against the odds as it has neither the numbers nor evidence of broad support. The BJP has come in second place in this constituency in the last two general elections, behind the Congress. Kerala’s population is 55 percent Hindu, 27 percent Muslim and 18 percent Christian. But the Hindu nationalist BJP has so far struggled to even win the bulk of the Hindu vote in Kerala.
  • Mandya, Karnataka: The BJP has never won the Mandya seat in southern Karnataka. While Modi boasted of a target of crossing the 400-seat mark on the back of his alliance this time, only strong wins in southern India can make that possible. The BJP did win 25 of the state’s 28 seats in the 2019 general elections and also ruled at the state level from 2008 to 2013, and from 2018 to 2023. But the Congress, which is back in power in Karnataka, is hoping to garner a large victory as it has campaigned against the government, saying it discriminates against the southern states, which get few resources from the federal government. The Congress candidate, Venkataramane Gowda – also known as Star Chandru – is up against former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal Secular, an ally of the BJP.
  • Mathura, Uttar Pradesh: Bollywood actor Hema Malini of the BJP has won this seat since 2014. She faces the Congress’s Mukesh Dhangar, the party’s state president. Mathura is a BJP stronghold, and along with other cities in India’s most populous state, is home to mosques that Modi’s party claims were built on demolished temples. In Mathura, it is the 17th-century Shahi Idgah mosque. Mathura may vote for the BJP, but Malini is known more for her absence from the constituency, where she is accused of showing up only at election time.
  • Gautam Budh Nagar, Uttar Pradesh: Former minister Mahesh Sharma of the BJP has won twice from here. The village of Bisahda in this constituency is where Mohammed Akhlaq was lynched in 2015 on suspicion of stealing and slaughtering a cow. The 52-year-old Muslim ironsmith was dragged from his home and beaten to death over the rumour. More recently, Prime Minister Modi has faced criticism for fanning anti-Muslim hatred by equating the community to “infiltrators”. At an election rally in the western state of Rajasthan, the prime minister said the opposition wanted to distribute wealth to “those who have many children” in comments widely seen as referring to the Muslim minority.

When does voting start and end?

Voting will start at 7am (01:30 GMT) and end at 6pm (12:30 GMT). Voters already in the queue by the time polls close will get to vote even if that means keeping polling stations open longer.

Who rules states that vote in the second phase?

  • Kerala is governed by a left-wing alliance led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which is part of INDIA.
  • The BJP governs Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
  • The BJP rules through alliances in Bihar and Maharashtra.
  • The Congress governs Karnataka.
  • West Bengal is governed by the All India Trinamool Congress Party, a part of INDIA.

Who won these Lok Sabha seats in 2019?

  • In the last Lok Sabha election, Congress-led alliances United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala, won 23 of the 88 seats that will vote on April 26. Several parties from the UPA are now part of the INDIA bloc.
  • The BJP-led NDA won 62 of the seats in 2019.
  • Two independent candidates won seats in 2019 in Karnataka and Maharashtra each. The Bahujan Samaj Party took one seat in Uttar Pradesh.
  • A delimitation exercise in Assam last year changed the organisation of constituencies. In 2019, Assam had a constituency called the Autonomous District which comprised Diphu as an assembly segment among others. Diphu has now replaced the Autonomous District as a constituency in 2024. The BJP won the Autonomous District in 2019. Additionally, Darrang-Udalguri was previously called Mangaldoi, which the BJP won.

How much of India has voted so far?

On April 19, 102 constituencies in 21 states voted in the first phase of the elections. Voting has concluded for all seats in Tamil Nadu, as well as Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep and Puducherry.

While voting took place for both of Manipur’s seats during phase one, Outer Manipur is heading to polls for a second time in phase two.

The third phase will be held on May 7.

Source: Al Jazeera