Several important leaders, including Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Union minister Smriti Irani, are in the fray as 51 constituencies across seven states vote on Monday in the fifth phase of Lok Sabha elections.
Nearly 8 crore voters will seal the fate of 674 candidates in the states of - Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Over 96 thousand polling booths have been set up in 51 constituencies.
Here are the key battles to look out for in phase five of national elections
Rajnath Singh Vs Poonam Sinha Vs Acharya Pramod Krishnam
One of the most crucial battles of this phase will take place in Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow, a BJP bastion from where Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is seeking a second term. The constituency was represented by BJP patriarch Atal Bihari Vajpayee for five consecutive terms between 1991 and 2009.
Challenging Rajnath Singh is gathbandhan candidate Poonam Sinha, wife of actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha. Poonam Sinha joined the Samajwadi Party last month days after her husband exited BJP to join the Congress. Despite Congress not being a part of the BSP-SP-RLD gatbandhan in UP, Shatrughan Sinha actively campaigned for his wife in the region.
On the other side, Congress has declared self-styled spiritual guru Acharya Pramod Krishnam as its candidate from Lucknow.
Acharya Pramod Krishnam, who runs an ashram in Sambhal, made headlines in 2015 when he equated Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Indian Mujahideen and blamed him for "growing intolerance" in the country.
Rahul Gandhi Vs Smriti Irani
Union Minister Smriti Irani for the second time is pitted against Congress chief Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, a Congress bastion where the party has lost only two Lok Sabha elections – in 1977 and 1998.
In 2014, Rahul Gandhi had defeated Irani by a margin of over 1 lakh votes.
Irani has led high-decibel campaigns in the constituency, highlighting how Rahul Gandhi had neglected Amethi over the years. Her attacks were amplified after the Congress chief’s decision to also contest from Kerala’s Wayanad this time.
The BJP-ruled central government has launched several projects here like the assault rifle manufacturing unit for which the foundation stone was laid last month by PM Modi.
Sonia Gandhi Vs Dinesh Pratap Singh
The fate of Congress’ longest serving president Sonia Gandhi will be sealed on Monday, as she seeks reelection for the fifth term from Rae Bareli. To take on her, the BJP has fielded former Congress leader Dinesh Singh Pratap. He is a local strongman and was elected to the state legislative council for the second time in 2016.
The SP-BSP-RLD alliance in Uttar Pradesh, is not contesting the Congress strongholds - Rae Bareli and Amethi. In a strong message of unity, however, BSP’s Mayawati on Sunday said,"I am confident that every single vote from our gathbandhan, under any condition, will go to the two Congress leaders (from Amethi and Raebareli)".
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore Vs Krishna Poonia
In Jaipur Rural, Union Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who won this Lok Sabha seat in 2014, has been again fielded by the BJP to take on Congress candidate Krishna Poonia, who won last year's Rajasthan assembly election from Sadulpur.
On her contest against Rathore, Krishna Poonia had said last month that "it is a fight to save democracy". Krishna Poonia became the first Indian woman track-and-field athlete to win a gold medal at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.
Rathore, on the other hand, has won 25 medals at various international championships. He won a silver medal for India at the 2004 Athens Olympics and gold at the Commonwealth Games at Manchester in 2002 and Melbourne in 2006.
Both the candidates entered politics in 2013.
Arjun Singh Vs Dinesh Trivedi In Barackpore
In West Bengal's Barackpore, Trinamool candidate and former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi will battle it out with his ex-election manager and BJP candidate Arjun Singh.
"People will ensure victory of the pen over pistols. No one will vote for a mafia don who was slapped with almost all sections of Indian Penal Code. Elections are for development and people will vote us for the development works undertaken by Trinamool government and its local team," Trivedi was quoted as saying by news agency IANS.
Singh, who left Trinamool Congress in March, has said Trivedi is not popular in Barackpore. "I am 200 per cent sure of winning this election because Trinamool has fielded Trivedi from my constituency. He is not popular here. People hardly know him. When I was in Trinamool, I ensured his victory. I think he will come third this time. CPI-M will be second," he told IANS.