India elections: Rahul Gandhi loses in stronghold of Amethi

An Indian kite maker displays his specially made kites with pictures of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) and Congress president Rahul Gandhi printed on them, in Amritsar, India, on May 22, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW DELHI - Results are beginning to trickle in on Thursday (May 23) in one of the most polarised election contests that India has seen. Here are the key battles to watch out for in this long and bitter campaign.


Narendra Modi (BJP) v Ajay Rai (Congress) v Shalini Yadav (Samajwadi Party but is contesting as an opposition alliance candidate)

Status: Mr Modi is leading.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a second term in Varanasi, where he won the 2014 election by a margin of more than 300,000 votes. Mr Modi has sought support on account of his development agenda as well as his image as a strong leader.

The Congress has fielded Mr Ajay Rai, who finished third in 2014 with only 75,000 votes. The opposition gathbandhan or alliance of Mr Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Ms Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party has fielded Ms Shalini Yadav, the daughter-in-law of a former Congress lawmaker. Neither is thought to stand a chance of winning but is expected to eat into Mr Modi's share of votes.


Rahul Gandhi (Congress) v Smriti Irani (BJP)

Status: Ms Irani has won.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi has lost to the Bharatiya Janata Party's Smriti Irani. The loss is a big blow to Mr Gandhi's stature as a Congress as well as an opposition leader. Amethi is a Gandhi family borough that has elected a member of its family as its representative to Parliament for 14 of the last 15 elections.

Ms Irani, a federal minister and former television actress, lost to Mr Gandhi in 2014 by around 100,000 votes. Since then, she has been visited the constituency regularly, attacking him relentlessly on a side range of issues.

Mr Gandhi is leading from Wayanad in Kerala, a second seat he contested from.


Giriraj Singh (BJP) v Kanhaiya Kumar (Communist Party of India) v Tanveer Hasan (Rashtriya Janata Dal)

Status: Mr Singh has won.

This has been dubbed one of the most closely watched battles, where Mr Kanhaiya Kumar, a young leader and former president of a leading university's students' union, is challenging BJP's dominance in this Lok Sabha constituency. Mr Singh is a federal minister and a BJP veteran.

Mr Kumar is engaged in a triangular battle with the BJP's Mr Singh and the Rashtriya Janata Dal's Tanveer Hasan.

Mr Singh has been declared the winner, winning by 420,000 votes.


Gautam Gambhir (BJP) v Atishi (Aam Aadmi Party) v Arvinder Singh Lovely (Congress)

Status: Mr Gambhir is leading.

For many who wish key issues such as education were prominent in elections, this has been a key battle to watch out for. Ms Atishi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate, has been widely lauded for helping improve the standard of education in Delhi's government schools. But a wide support for Mr Modi and the appeal of former Indian cricket captain Gautam Gambhir, who is the BJP candidate, pose a formidable challenge.

The AAP and Congress also failed to stitch up a pre-poll alliance, which many expect to split the anti-BJP vote. Initial numbers show Mr Gambhir is leading against Ms Atishi and Mr Lovely.


Pragya Singh Thakur (BJP) v Digvijay Singh (Congress)

Status: Ms Thakur is leading.

The recently held parliamentary elections have been defined as a battle for India's identity. It is the contest in Bhopal that perhaps encapsulates this tussle most vividly. The BJP candidate Pragya Singh Thakur is a Hindu ascetic who is currently facing trial on terrorism charges. Yet, she has enjoyed strong support as someone chosen by Mr Modi and as someone who has stood against alleged attempts to vilify Hinduism by labelling an ascetic as a terrorist.

If she wins, she will become possibly the first member of Parliament who faces terrorism charges. She recently even described the killer of Mahatma Gandhi as a patriot.

Ms Thakur is firmly in the lead with Bhopal, with a 200,000-vote lead over the next closest candidate.

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