rahul smriti
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had defeated Union Minister Smriti Irani in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.Reuters

The fifth phase of the Lok Sabha 2019 elections kicked off on Monday, May 6, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking a second-term from an estimated 9 crore voters across seven states. The seven-phase national election began on April 11 and will continue for over a month till May 19. Results will be declared on May 23.

Key candidates in fray

Rahul Gandhi - Congress president Rahul Gandhi is representing his family bastion Amethi since 2004. The Congress chief had defeated Union Minister Smriti Irani in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, but his victory margin was substantially reduced from more than three lakhs in 2009 to just over one lakh in 2014.

Smriti Irani- BJP candidate from eastern Uttar Pradesh seat Amethi, Smriti Irani, is confident of her victory.

Sonia Gandhi - UPA Chairperson and Rahul Gandhi's mother Sonia Gandhi is up against Congress turncoat and BJP candidate Dinesh Pratap Singh in Raebareli.

Rajnath Singh - The Lucknow Lok Sabha constituency is seeing a three-cornered fight with Union Home Minister and BJP leader Rajnath Singh.

Monday's voting includes some of the most electorally important regions in the north, including Uttar Pradesh, the state with the most members of parliament.

Uttar Pradesh is also where Hindu nationalist groups have aggressively pushed for the building of a temple on the ruins of a 16th-century mosque, in the city of Ayodhya, which has become a flashpoint in tension with minority Muslims.

"The main issues here are the temple, nationalism and the country's economic development," said Sharad Sharma, an Ayodhya-based spokesman for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or the World Hindu Council, a group linked to Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Voting is also taking place in strongholds of the main opposition Congress party in Uttar Pradesh, including the Amethi constituency of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, and Rae Bareilly, which is represented by his mother, Sonia Gandhi.

Modi campaigned on his national security record, in particular his tough stand against rival Pakistan following a suicide bomb attack by a Pakistan-based militant group that killed 40 Indian paramilitary police in the Indian part of Kashmir in February.

Hundreds of additional troops have been deployed in Kashmir for the vote and polling staff and equipment was airlifted in.

Turnout was very low in the first hour of voting in the Himalayan region, an election official said.

(With inputs from Reuters)