BJP fields Kangana Ranaut to win back Mandi Lok Sabha seat
HIMACHAL PRADESH: (Web Desk) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which lost the Mandi Lok Sabha seat to Congress’s Pratibha Singh in the 2021 by-election following the death of sitting MP Ram Swaroop Sharma, has fielded Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut to win it back, according to Indian media.

Ranaut, making her electoral debut from home state, is up against Vikramaditya Singh, son of Himachal Congress chief Pratibha Singh and former chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

Vikramaditya Singh is currently an MLA from Shimla Rural and a minister in the Congress government headed by Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu.

India voted on Saturday (June 1) in the final phase of a long-drawn general election held in record summer heat in many areas as both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his challengers, including Rahul Gandhi, said they would win the polls centered mostly on inequality and religion.

The seven-phase election, in which nearly a billion people were eligible to cast their ballots, began on April 19 and will end with polling in the last 57 seats - including in Modi’s constituency in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi, Reuters reported.

Voters in Punjab’s Firozpur district lined up in large numbers to vote despite oppressive heat, saying they come to vote every five years in spite of disappointments from previous incumbents. Voters were also seen queueing in Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal.

More than 100 million people are registered to vote across eight states and federal territories on Saturday, including in the northern state of Punjab and the eastern states of Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha, Reuters reported.

"Calling upon the voters to turnout in large numbers and vote," Modi said as polls opened. "Together, let’s make our democracy more vibrant and participative."

Modi is seeking a rare, third straight term as prime minister as his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) battles an opposition alliance of two dozen parties led by the Congress, and is widely expected to win a majority.