Campaigning concluded on Saturday for the fifth phase of Lok Sabha polls covering 49 constituencies in six states and two UTs including the high-profile Rae Bareli and Amethi seats from where former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Union Minister Smriti Irani are in the fray respectively.

In Jammu and Kashmir's Baramulla, former chief minister Omar Abdullah, who is among 22 candidates in the fray, held a roadshow in Soibugh - a central Kashmir village that was once a hotbed of militancy- on the last day of campaigning.

While temperatures soared across the country, there was no let up in the campaign heat as the Lok Sabha election season entered the last fortnight. The Election Commission on Tuesday said it expects star campaigners, particularly of the national parties, to lead by example in the remaining three phases of the Lok Sabha polls and not vitiate the delicate fabric of society.

With over 40 of these seats with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Prime Minister Narendra and other BJP leaders tried to fend off the challenge posed by the INDIA bloc parties by raising the pitch on issues of appeasement, dynastic politics, Ram temple, Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), corruption and welfare initiatives taken by his government.

"If the SP and the Congress come to power, they will send Ram Lalla back to the tent and bulldoze the temple," Modi claimed. He also alleged that the opposition wanted to bring back Article 370.

The Congress and other INDIA bloc parties accused the BJP of polarising voters with its "Hindu-Muslim politics", and not focusing on issues like unemployment and inflation. They also persisted with their offensive on the issues of reservations and protecting the Constitution.

On Monday, polling will be held in 13 seats in Maharashtra, 14 in Uttar Pradesh, seven in West Bengal, five in Bihar, three in Jharkhand, five in Odisha and one each in J-K and Ladakh. This round covers the least number of seats (49) in the seven-phase election.

The parties also wrapped up canvassing in 35 assembly constituencies in Odisha, where BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is among the candidates.

Among other prominent candidates in the fifth phase of Lok Sabha polls are several Union ministers including Rajnath Singh (Lucknow, UP), Piyush Goyal (Mumbai North, Maharashtra), Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti (from Fatehpur, UP) and Shantanu Thakur (Bangaon, WB); LJP (Ram Vilas) leader Chirag Paswan (Hajipur, Bihar), Shiv Sena’s Shrikant Shinde (Kalyan,  Maharashtra ), and BJP's Rajiv Pratap Rudy and RJD president Lalu Prasad's daughter Rohini Acharya (both Saran, Bihar).

Gandhi, who has contested from Wayanad in Kerala, is also in the fight for Rae Bareli, a Nehru-Gandhi family pocket borough that was represented by his mother Sonia Gandhi since 2004. The BJP has fielded UP minister Dinesh Pratap Singh.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with party candidates Udit Raj and Kanhaiya Kumar during a rally for Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi, Saturday, May 18, 2024.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with party candidates Udit Raj and Kanhaiya Kumar during a rally for Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi, Saturday, May 18, 2024. | Photo Credit: Ravi Choudhary

On Friday, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi tried to strike an emotional chord as she said at a rally that she is giving her son to the people of Rae Bareli and "Rahul will not disappoint you".

"My everything is all given by you. So, brothers and sisters, I am giving you my son" said Sonia Gandhi, as Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra stood by her side on the stage at the rally.

Speaking before his mother, Rahul Gandhi said the "youth across the country have made up their mind that they don't want Narendra Modi".

"Narendra Modi will not remain prime minister after June 4 and the INDIA coalition government will be forme," he said.

In Amethi, Union minister Smriti Irani, who had defeated Rahul Gandhi in 2019, is seeking a second term, while KL Sharma, an aide of the Gandhi family, has been fielded by the Congress.

From Lucknow, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is eyeing a fourth term. He is up against sitting SP MLA (from Lucknow Central) Ravidas Mehrotra.

During a rally in Lucknow, Singh said, "These elections are also to see who has raised the country's stature in the world." In the Faizabad Lok Sabha seat, which covers the temple town of Ayodhya, the electoral contest is mainly between sitting BJP MP Lallu Singh, who is seeking a hat-trick, and Awadhesh Prasad, the SP MLA from Milkipur (SC) assembly constituency in Ayodhya.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on May 15 announced that if the INDIA bloc is voted to power, it will double the quantity of free rations provided by the BJP government to the poor.

Farmers' loans will be waived and Minimum Support Price will be guaranteed, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said on Tuesday.

In Baramulla, besides Abdullah, former separatist Sajad Lone, former MLA Sheikh Abdul Rashid alias 'Engineer Rashid', who is currently lodged in the Tihar jail, and the PDP's former Rajya Sabha member Fayaz Ahmad Mir are also contesting.

With the separatist-sponsored boycott politics a thing of past now, the people are expected to participate in the elections in large numbers to chose their favourite.

Political parties fielded their stalwarts as they gave the last push in Maharashtra where elections will conclude with polling in 13 constituencies in North Maharashtra and Mumbai  Metropolitan Region on May 20.

Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday addressed campaign rallies in Kalyan and Dindori in support of the BJP-Shiv Sena-NCP ‘Mahayuti’ coalition’s candidates and also held a roadshow in northeast Mumbai.

Modi was again back in Mumbai on Friday for a rally in the city’s Shivaji Park. Opposition bloc INDIA also held a rally the same day at the city's Bandra Kurla Complex that was attended by Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar and Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal.

On the concluding day, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath held public meetings at Malegaon in Nashik district and Palghar to canvass for Mahayuti candidates.

Security has been stepped up in West Bengal's seven constituencies, with over 57 per cent of the polling stations identified as sensitive in the fifth phase, the highest till now in this election.

Over 60,000 personnel of central forces, besides around 30,000 personnel of the state police, have been deployed, which is more than in the four previous phases in the state, an official said.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata addresses a public meeting in support of Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidate from Bishnupur constituency Sujata Mondal for the Lok Sabha polls, in Bankura on Saturday.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata addresses a public meeting in support of Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidate from Bishnupur constituency Sujata Mondal for the Lok Sabha polls, in Bankura on Saturday. | Photo Credit: UTPAL SARKAR

Star campaigners, including Prime Minister Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee and her nephew and party general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, have held rallies for their respective party candidates.

In Barrackpore, BJP candidate Arjun Singh is contesting against TMC's Partha Bhowmick and CPI (M)'s Debdut Ghosh. In Serampore, TMC's sitting MP Kalyan Banerjee is fighting against BJP's Kabir Shankar Bose.

In Hooghly, actor-turned-politician Locket Chatterjee of the BJP is contesting against a fellow member of the film fraternity, Rachana Banerjee of the TMC.

Voting will take place in Saran, Muzaffarpur, Hajipur, Sitamarhi and Madhubani Lok Sabha seats of Bihar.

In Saran, former Union minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy's bid to score a hat-trick has been challenged by RJD president Lalu Prasad's daughter Rohini Acharya, who had donated her kidney to her father. RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who has suffered a back injury, campaigned for his elder sister in Saran.

The curtains also came down on Saturday over campaigning for three Lok Sabha seats and Gandey assembly by-poll in Jharkhand.

With the conclusion of Phase 4, polling for general elections had crossed the halfway mark as it was completed in 23 states/UTs and 379 Lok Sabha constituencies out of 543. The sixth and seventh phases are on May 25 and June 1 respectively. The counting of votes is on June 4.