2024 LS election to kick off with first and largest phase on Friday, several heavyweights in fray

New Delhi, April 18 (IANS) Launching the electoral process in the world's biggest and most vibrant democracy, polling in the first and largest phase of the Lok Sabha elections 2024 is set to begin on Friday morning for 102 constituencies in 21 states/UTs, spanning various terrains including hills, jungles, islands and bustling urban sprawls from Jammu and Kashmir to Andaman and Nicobar, Bihar to Lakshwadeep, and Maharashtra to Mizoram.

Polling to elect new Assemblies in Arunachal and Sikkim will be held simultaneously in the first phase.

Over 16.63 crore voters, including 35 lakh first-time voters and 3.51 crore young voters in the age group of 20-29 years, are eligible to head to 1.87 lakh polling stations across the country from 7 a.m. to decide the fate of 1,625 candidates, including several heavyweights including many Union Ministers, a former Governor, and two former Chief Ministers.

Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, who has seen a huge expansion of infrastructure in the country, is a candidate from Maharashtra's Nagpur, while cabinet colleagues Sarbananda Sonowal, Jitendra Singh, Bhupender Yadav and Arjun Ram Meghwal are in the fray from Assam's Dibrugarh, J&K's Udhampur, and Rajasthan's Alwar and Bikaner, respectively.

Union Minister Kiran Rijiju is contesting from Arunachal Pradesh where he faces former Chief Minister Nabam Tuki of the Congress, his ministerial colleague L. Murugan is contesting from Tamil Nadu's Nilgiris constituency where he faces DMK leader and former Union Minister A. Raja, and another minister, Nisith Pramanik from West Bengal's Cooch Behar.

In the Chennai South Lok Sabha constituency, the BJP has fielded Telangana's former Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan while former Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb is contesting from Tripura West.

Polling will end in most constituencies by 6 p.m.

The Lok Sabha battle will end in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshwadeep, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Sikkim (one seat each), Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya (two seats each), Uttarakhand (five seats) and Tamil Nadu (39 seats) in the first phase.

Voting will also take place in Assam's Dibrugarh, Jorhat - where Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi is in the fray, Kaziranga, Lakhimpur, Sonitpur constituencies, Bihar's Aurangabad, Gaya, Jamui, and Nawada, Chhattisgarh's Bastar, Madhya Pradesh's Chhindwara - where veteran Congress leader and former CM Kamal Nath's son Nakul Nath, is seeking to retain the family stronghold, Balaghat, Jabalpur, Mandla, Sidhi, and Shahdol, Maharashtra's Chandrapur, Bhandara-Gondiya, Gadchiroli-Chimur, Ramtek, and Nagpur, Rajasthan's Ganganagar, Bikaner, Churu, Jhunjhunu, Sikar, Jaipur Rural, Jaipur, Alwar, Bharatpur, Karauli-Dholpur, Dausa, and Nagaur, Manipur's Inner and Outer Manipur constituencies (partially), Uttar Pradesh's Pilibhit, Saharanpur, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Nagina, Moradabad, and Rampur, and West Bengal's Cooch Behar, Alipurduars, and Jalpaiguri.

The Election Commission has deployed a total of 4,627 flying squads, 5,208 static surveillance teams, 2,028 video surveillance teams, and 1,255 video viewing teams. A total of 1,374 inter-state and 162 international border checkpoints are closely monitoring any illegal flow of liquor, drugs, cash, and freebies. Strict surveillance is being maintained on maritime and aerial routes as well.

Meanwhile, the poll panel has directed all amenities, especially drinking water, be provided for voters in view of the heat.


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