Polling begins for final phase of UP polls

Lucknow, March 7 : Polling began for 54 seats spread across nine districts in the seventh and last phase of Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections on Monday. Voting is being held in Azamgarh, Mau, Jaunpur, Ghazipur, Chandauli, Varanasi, Mirzapur, Bhadohi and Sonbhadra. While polling in Chakia, Robertsganj and Dudhi assembly segments is being held between 7 am and 4 pm, in the remaining 51 assembly segments the timing is 7 am to 6 pm. According to Chief Electoral Officer Ajay Kumar Shukla 2.06 crore electorates, including 1.09 crore male and 97.08 lakh female, eligible to vote in this phase. There are 613 candidates, including 75 women in this fray. “Polling is being held at 23,614 polling booths set up at 12,210 polling stations,” he said. According to Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar, 29 assembly constituencies have been identified as sensitive in Monday’s poll. These are Pindra, Rohania, Sewapuri, Shahganj, Malhani, Mariahu, Kerakat, Machhlishahr, Badlapur, Mungra Badshahpur, Jaunpur Sadar, Zafrabad, Mohammadabad, Zamania, Saidpur, Zahurabad, Syed Raza, Chakia, Azamgarh, Phoolpur, Pawai, Deedarganj, Mau Sadar, Gyanpur, Ajgara, Shivpur, Varanasi North, Varanasi South and Varanasi Cantt. “In the seventh phase, 701 hamlets and localities have been identified as vulnerable and 3,359 polling booths have been marked as critical,” he said. Seventy-eight pink booths have been set up in this phase where 12 female inspector and sub-inspector and 216 constables and head constables have been deployed. “778.83 companies of central forces have been deployed at polling booths,” he said. “From UP police 6,662 inspectors and sub-inspectors, 53,424 constables and head constables along with 19 companies of PAC, 42,747 home guards, 1,550 PRD jawans and 8,174 chowkidars have been deployed,” the ADG said. As per ADR report there are 170 (28 per cent) candidates in this phase against whom criminal cases are pending. Of these 131 candidates have serious criminal cases in the courts, the report said. In 2017 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies won 36 out of 54 seats, whereas Samajwadi Party (SP) won 11 and Bahujan Samaj Party six. Om Prakash Rajbhar led Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) which was an ally of BJP in 2017 has allied with SP this time. The prestige of SBSP, which has a considerable support base in Mau and Ghazipur districts, will be tested in this phase. While BJP ally A a Dal (Sonelal) will be required to deliver on the expectations of the alliance, SP is trying to hold it’s fort in Azamgarh, where it won 5 out of 10 seats and BJP got only one. Remaining seats went to BSP. It may be noted that SP president Akhilesh Yadav is the MP from Azamgarh Lok Sabha constituency. Prestige of four ministers in the Yogi Adityanath government is at stake in this phase. Transport Minister Anil Rajbhar is in the fray from Shivpur where he is being challenged by SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar’s son, Arvind Rajbhar. Tourism Minister Neelkanth Tiwari is contesting from Varanasi South and Minister of State for Stamp and Registration (Independent Charge) Ravindra Jaiswal from Varanasi North. Minister of State for Energy Rama Shankar Singh Patel is trying his luck from Madihan seat in Mirzapur district. Former minister Dara Singh Chauhan, who quit the Yogi cabinet and BJP to join the SP, is trying his luck from Ghosi seat in Mau district. Among other prominent candidates Alka Rai, BJP’s sitting MLA and wife of slain party leader Krishnanand Rai, is again contesting from Mohammadabad seat in Ghazipur district. Former BJP MP Krishna Pratap Singh ‘KP’ is contesting from Malhani seat where he is being challenged by former MP and heavyweight Dhananjay Singh, who is contesting on a Janata Dal ( ted) ticket. Lucky Yadav, son of former SP leader Paras Nath Yadav, a close friend of party patron Mulayam Singh Yadav, is also contesting from Malhani, making it a triangular contest. In fact Mulayam Singh campaigned for Lucky. Abbas Ansari, son of mafia-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari, is contesting for the first time from Mau seat on SBSP ticket. He has already landed in trouble as an FIR has been lodged against him for a provocative speech in which he is heard threatening the officers. Congress leader and former MLA Nadeem Javed is contesting from Jaunpur Sadar seat. According to a political analyst, “This is the toughest phase for all the major players as caste will be the deciding factor in this phase. “While riding high on the Modi wave BJP broke the jinx in 2017, but it has to be seen whether caste becomes a dominating factor again or not. “More so, all the top BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi in all his speeches ahead of the last phase polling, has urged people not to get divided in the name of caste and creed but vote for ‘a developed and crime-free UP’.” Monday’s polls will draw to close the elections in five key states that began on February 10 with Uttar Pradesh. Results will be announced on Thursday. AB ING GNK

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