The stage is set for the much-awaited high-voltage electoral battle which begins on Thursday with ninety-one Lok Sabha constituencies – spread across 18 states and two United Territories – going to polls in the first phase. Apart from the Lok Sabha polls, voting for Assembly polls will also be held in Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and the first phase of Odisha.
Voting will begin at 7 am and will continue till 6 pm. Elaborate security arrangements have been made on all polling stations to ensure free and fair polling.
The prominent candidates in the fray include Unions ministers Nitin Gadkari, Kiren Rijiju and VK Singh, along with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy and RLD chief Ajit Singh.
People will vote for all parliamentary constituencies in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Uttarakhand, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Telangana.
Constituencies in Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal will also go to the polls in the first phase.
In Andhra Pradesh, strong anti-incumbency, caste and corruption are the major factors that could determine the outcome of the elections to Lok Sabha and the state assembly as over 3.93 crore voters get to exercise their franchise. This is the first general election in the state after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014.
Polling for all 25 Lok Sabha and 175 assembly seats will be held simultaneously. There are 2,118 candidates for the state polls and 319 for the Lok Sabha elections.
TDP chief and CM N Chandrababu Naidu will be seeking election from Kuppam, while his son Nara Lokesh is making his electoral debut from Mangalagiri.
YSR Congress chief Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, an aspirant for the CM's post, is fighting from his family's pocket-borough Pulivendula.
All 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana will go to polls in phase-one.
The TRS having swept the December assembly polls is hoping for an encore in the company of AIMIM while the opposition Congress and BJP appear to be focussed on winning select number of seats.
There are 443 candidates in the fray. The Nizamabad Lok Sabha constituency is a special case as 185 candidates, including over 170 farmers, are in the fray.
Congress leader Renuka Chowdary (Khammam), AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi (Hyderabad), state Congress president N Uttam Kumar Reddy (Nalgonda) and daughter of TRS president K Chandrasekhar Rao, are among the prominent candidates.
In Uttar Pradesh, the ruling BJP will clash with the newly-formed SP-BSP-RLD alliance on eight seats.
In Muzaffarnagar, RLD chief Ajit Singh will take on BJP's Sanjeev Balyan. His son Jayant Chaudhary is fielded against Union minister Satyapal Singh in Baghpat. Union ministers V K Singh and Mahesh Sharma are BJP candidates in Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar, respectively.
Seven Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra will go to polls, with Union Minister Nitin Gadkari locked in a battle with Congress's Nana Patole, a former BJP MP. Union minister and BJP leader, Hansaraj Ahir is seeking a fourth term from Chandrapur.
In Bihar, four Lok Sabha seats will see polling on Thursday. LJP leader Chirag Paswan is contesting from Jamui reserved seat. He is the sitting MP and is locked in a virtual straight contest with Bhudeo Chaudhary of RLSP.
In the North East, of the two seats in Arunachal Pradesh Union Minister Kiren Rijiju is seeking re-election from Arunachal West. Other than the two Lok Sabha seats, 57 assembly constituencies will also vote on Thursday. Five seats in Assam will go to polls, with former CM Tarun Gogoi's son Gaurav Gogoi testing poll waters from Kaliabor.
In Chhattisgarh where one Lok Sabha seat, Bastar, is going to polls, security has been tightened following a naxal attack in the constituency's Dantewada area on Tuesday. A BJP leader and four security personnel were killed.
Polls will go as per schedule in the state, the Election Commission has said.
Sixty lakh voters in Odisha will exercise their franchise in the first phase of polls for four Lok Sabha and 28 assembly seats on Thursday.
The first phase of polls will decide the fate of 217 candidates. There are 26 hopefuls in fray for Lok Sabha seats and 191 for assembly seats.
Polls for all the five seats in Uttarakhand, which were won by the BJP in 2014, will be held the first phase.
Prominent candidates from the Congress include Pritam Singh (Tehri), former CM Harish Rawat (Nainital) and senior BJP leader BC Khanduri's son Manish Khanduri from Pauri.
Interesting contests are expected in Tehri, where BJP has pitted twice MP Mala Rajya Lakshmi Shah against Pritam Singh, in Nainital where its senior leader Ajay Bhatt, who is making his poll debut, is pitted against Harish Rawat.
Two seats each in West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and Meghalaya will see polling in the first phase.
Lone Lok Sabha seats going to polls on April 11 include Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur, Nagaland, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar, and Lakshadweep.
(With inputs from agencies)