New Delhi: Voting began on Sunday in 59 Lok Sabha constituencies spanning seven states and a Union Territory across north, central and east India in the final stage of the mega seven-phase electoral exercise.

This phase covers all remaining seats in the three states — Uttar Pradesh (13, including the high-profile Varanasi constituency), Bihar (8) and West Bengal (9) – where polling took place across all seven phases, as well as Madhya Pradesh (8) and Jharkhand (3) which also saw multi-stage voting.

All the 13 constituencies in Punjab, one in Chandigarh, and four in Himachal Pradesh also figure in this phase.

Re-polling is also being held in several booths in parliamentary seats in six states and in Assembly constituencies in two. These seats include Kerala’s Kannur and Kasargod, Tamil Nadu’s Dharmapuri, Theni, Thiruvallur, Cuddalore and Erode, Haryana’s Faridabad, Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh, West Bengal’s Bankura, Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor parliamentary and Chandgiri Assembly constituencies and 34 Assembly segments in 10 Odisha districts.

Voting is also on in bypolls for four Assembly seats in Tamil Nadu, two in Karnataka and the Panaji Assembly seat, which fell vacant after the death of Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Voting began at 7 a.m. in nine parliamentary constituencies of West Bengal in the seventh and final phase of Lok Sabha elections on Sunday.

An electorate of around 1,49,10,643 is authorised to decide the fate of 111 candidates in 17,058 polling booths covering Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata South and Kolkata North constituencies.

There are 94 male candidates and 17 are females. Polling is scheduled to continue till 6 p.m.

The Kolkata North seat has the highest number of candidates (21) contesting among 42 parliamentary constituencies in Bengal, while it also has the lowest number of electorate (14.44 lakh).

Following incidents of violence and vandalism centering BJP President Amit Shah's rally in the heart of Kolkata on May 14, the Election Commission took the unprecedented step of curtailing campaign time by 20 hours by invoking Article 324 of the constitution.

To ensure peaceful and free and fair polls, the EC has decided to deploy 710 companies of central paramilitary forces, 461 Quick Response Teams (QRT) and state police personnel across the nine constituencies spread over three districts -- Kolkata, 24 Parganas North and 24 Parganas South.

Stakes are high in South 24 Parganas district's Diamond Harbour seat as Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew and Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee is contesting for second term. He is pitted against CPI-M's Fuad Halim, BJP's Nilanjan Roy and Soumya Aich Roy of Congress.

Jadavpur constituency in Kolkata's southern suburb would see in action popular Bengali actress and political greenhorn Mimi Chakraborty, who has been challenged by CPI-M leader and former city mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya and BJP candidate Anupam Hazra, who defected from Trinamool a few months back.

In Kolkata North, in fray is BJP's National Secretary Rahul Sinha and sitting MP and Saradha chit fund scam accused Sudip Bandyopadhyay. The CPI-M has fielded Kaninika Bose Ghosh while Congress has nominated Syed Shahid Imam.

In Kolkata South, a number of star voters including state chief minister Mamata Banerjee, former India cricket team captain Sourav Ganguly and a host of Bengali intellectuals, artists and film stars will cast their votes. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's grand nephew Chandra Kumar Bose is contesting in a BJP ticket while Trinamool has fielded Mala Roy and CPI-M candidate is Jadavpur University professor Nandini Mukherjee

The Basirhat Lok Sabha seat, bordering Bangladesh that was hit by a communal violence in 2017, has also hogged the limelight since the announcement of candidate list as another Bengali silver screen heroine Nusrat Jahan is fighting against BJP's Sayantan Basu, with the CPI and the Congress also putting up candidates.

The votes will be counted on May 23. (IANS)

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