Outcome of the round could decide the shape of next government

Heavy voter turnout marked the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha elections, covering 121 constituencies spread across 12 States. The outcome of the latest phase could decide the shape the new government in May.

This round is crucial to both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress as together with their allies, they currently hold 86 of the 121 seats. The States where both the ruling party and the principal Opposition have heavy stakes are Karnataka, where election for all 28 seats was held, and Rajasthan, which saw voting in 20 of its 25 constituencies.

Polling was also held for 11 seats in Uttar Pradesh and Odisha, 10 in Madhya Pradesh, seven in Bihar, six in Jharkhand, four in West Bengal, three in Chhattisgarh, and one each in Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur.

Provisional figures put out by the Election Commission show that the polling in the fifth phase was high in all the States compared to the 2009 general election. While Rajasthan saw a jump of 13 per cent, from 48.09 per cent to 63.24 per cent; Karnataka jumped from 58.88 to 68 per cent and Maharashtra nearly eight per cent, from 54.14 to 61.72 per cent.

Among the prominent leaders in the fray are Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, the BJP’s Maneka Gandhi, the former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and Petroleum Minister M. Veerappa Moily. In Bihar, RJD chief Lalu Prasad's daughter Misa Bharti is making her political debut from the Patliputra constituency. An FIR was lodged against her for storming into a polling booth with her bodyguards.

Among the other key contestants are Nandan Nilekani, who is testing his fortunes as the Congress candidate against the BJP’s Anant Kumar from Bangalore South.

In Karnataka, where the Assembly elections were held 10 months ago, the Congress wrested power from the BJP, which had succeeded for the first time in forming a government in a southern State in 2008.

But the May 2013 Assembly elections were a cakewalk for the Congress as the BJP at that time was a divided house after the exit of former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa from the party. Now that he is back in the party, the Lok Sabha poll is bound to be different.

In Rajasthan, the Congress won 20 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in 2009. But, its performance in the December Assembly election was disastrous.