The Key Constituencies to Watch in India’s High-Stakes Election

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India’s election is past the halfway mark, with campaigning between the main political parties heating up just like the soaring temperatures across the country.

Thousands of candidates across national and regional parties, as well as independent hopefuls, are seeking the attention of nearly a billion eligible voters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking to extend his decade in office by another five years — has been criticized by the opposition for his aggressive and polarizing speeches. Challenger Rahul Gandhi of the Indian National Congress, which is in alliance with more than 20 parties, is attempting to stop Modi’s juggernaut.

The once-in-five-year festival of democracy in the world’s most populous nation has actors, sport stars and millionaires battling it out alongside the career politicians.

Of the 543 seats in the parliament, here are some of the most keenly watched contests:

Amethi, Wayanad

The suspense over senior Indian National Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s choice of a second constituency has ended, finally. And it’s not Amethi, the family bastion he’d previously won in three elections before losing to Smriti Irani of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in 2019. The small town in India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh had long been a Gandhi family stronghold, with Rahul’s parents and an uncle also previously voted to power there.

Gandhi will instead contest from Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh state, as well as in Wayanad, a district in the picturesque southern state of Kerala, which he won the last time. Indian politicians sometimes contest from more than one constituency, hoping to win at least one to ensure a seat in parliament.

From Amethi, the Congress has fielded Kishori Lal Sharma, a Gandhi family confidant who has been with the party for decades.

The BJP’s Irani, who routed Gandhi in his pocket-borough in 2019, is contesting once again. The city will vote on May 20, in the fifth of the seven-phase election, in what’s expected to be one of the most-watched contests.

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Sonia Gandhi, the former president of the Congress party, who’s won the last five elections from Raebareli, decided to stay out of the fray this time. The constituency, about 60 kilometers (37.282 miles) west of Amethi, has long been dominated by the Gandhi family, with her late mother-in-law and former prime minister Indira Gandhi winning the seat thrice.

Her son Rahul would be hoping to retain the family borough. His sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was rumored to make her electoral debut from the city, won’t be contesting elections.

Standing against him is BJP’s Dinesh Pratap Singh who lost against Sonia Gandhi in 2019. The constituency will vote on May 20.


The postcard-perfect region, home to snow-capped Himalayan peaks and serene lakes, has occasionally witnessed bloody clashes between Indian and Chinese troops along a long, disputed border. The BJP is trying to score a hat-trick of wins here, even as it battles rising local angst.

Part of the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir, broken into two federally-controlled territories after Modi’s government scrapped its autonomy in 2019, Ladakh is demanding statehood. Climate activist Sonam Wangchuk has rallied people to press for it and is seeking action to protect the fragile ecology of the strategically crucial region, nestled between Tibet and Pakistan. The BJP has picked a new candidate, dropping 2019 winner Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, who is in open rebellion against the party.


The capital city of southern state of Kerala — known for its pristine beaches, backwaters and the traditional medical practice of Ayurveda — is witnessing a nail-biting three-cornered fight. Congress’ Shashi Tharoor, a former minister and under-secretary-general of the United Nations, is vying for a fourth straight term. The BJP has fielded junior technology minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar hoping to unsettle Tharoor and win a seat in a state that has traditionally shown little interest in the party’s right-wing politics.


Nicknamed the ‘Manchester of South India’, this industrial city in Tamil Nadu is among the most closely-watched parliamentary contests, and crucial to Modi’s ambitions of expanding his party’s presence in the southern states. Desperate to win a few seats, the BJP has fielded former police officer K. Annamalai against strong challengers from regional parties. Annamalai, who’s campaigned close to 10,000 km on foot, has garnered popularity in the recent months. Modi, the BJP’s star campaigner, has visited the state six times this year to bolster the party’s chances.


A quaint little town, north of West Bengal’s capital Kolkata, is the epicenter of one of the most intense political battles in the ongoing national elections. The BJP has left no stone unturned to win a majority of the state’s seats. Standing in their way is firebrand regional leader Mamata Banerjee. Her party’s candidate from the constituency is former JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker Mahua Moitra, a fierce and vocal critic of Modi and his party. Moitra was expelled from parliament last year on allegations of ‘unethical conduct.’ The BJP has fielded Amrita Roy, a member of the town’s erstwhile royal family. The constituency is famous for its globally-acclaimed clay models.


The parliamentary constituency, located about 250 kms east of Mumbai, is considered the family bastion of wily politician Sharad Pawar — a king-maker who holds considerable sway in one of the country’s most industrialized states, Maharashtra. His daughter Supriya Sule is seeking a fourth straight term from the seat. The contest, this time, is expected to be a tough one. Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar is pitting his wife Sunetra Ajit Pawar against Sule. Ajit had split his uncle’s party to side with the BJP — and was made a deputy chief minister in the state government. Since then, both Ajit and Sunetra’s names have been cleared by the country’s investigative agencies in cases related to multi billion-rupee scams.


A young, independent candidate is making waves in the desert town of Barmer in the western state of Rajasthan. The BJP won the constituency in the last two elections. The district of Barmer shares a long border with neighboring Pakistan, and is considered one of the hottest places in the country. Summer temperatures regularly hit 40C (104F). Ravindra Singh Bhati, a 26-year-old student leader who sprung a surprise by winning in last year’s Rajasthan assembly elections, is raising the heat further and is set to give the BJP and the Congress a run for their money.

--With assistance from Santosh Kumar.

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