First major round across 14 States covers naxal areas

The first major round of polling will be held on Thursday when 91 constituencies across the 14 States go to the polls in what is technically the third phase of the 16th Lok Sabha elections. While polling will be held in all of Kerala, Haryana and Delhi, this phase includes several Naxal-hit areas and the recently riot-torn Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring districts.

The 91 constituencies where polling is scheduled on Thursday include 10 each in Maharashtra, U.P. and Odisha besides nine in Madhya Pradesh, six in Bihar, four in Jharkhand. The fate of some outgoing ministers including Kapil Sibal, Kamal Nath and Shashi Tharoor besides Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar will be decided in this phase. With this phase, polling will be wrapped up in 104 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies.

While security arrangements in the Naxal-hit areas has been stepped up in view of a boycott call, the Western Uttar Pradesh areas adjoining Delhi – where polling is slated in 10 constituencies – is an added security concern in view of last year’s communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring districts.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India has lodged a complaint with the Election Commission about "communal messages’’ being propagated in favour of Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi through the mobile messaging app, WhatsApp. One of the messages specifically urges the recipient to forward the message to at least five members of the ``Hindu community’’, said CPI secretary Amarjeet Kaur.

In a related development, the Congress questioned the source of the money that has been pumped into Mr. Modi’s publicity campaign through an advertisement blitzkrieg with multiple page advertisements in almost all national and regional newspapers, television channels, radio stations besides large billboards.

"This has been going on for months now and a back-of-the-envelope calculation – based on the prevailing advertisement rates – puts the expenditure bill for the Modi campaign in the vicinity of Rs. 10,000 crore,’’ said Congress spokesman Anand Sharma. Referring to the audited accounts of the BJP that is available in public domain, he said: ``It is clear that 90 per cent of their campaign is being funded by black money. This is a vulgar use of money to build a personality cult around one person.’’

This article has been corrected for a factual error.

The headline – “Voting today in 92 constituencies” was wrong. The text also erroneously talked about 92 constituencies going to the polls on Friday in the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections. It should have been 91 constituencies.