Around 57% turnout in UP polls’ penultimate phase

Hundreds of thousands of voters came out to cast their ballots in the penultimate phase of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections on Saturday, with around 57 per cent turnout recorded.

However, officials said that the percentage could go up as those waiting in line at the formal end of polling at 5 p.m. would be allowed to cast their vote.

The electorate in the phase, covering 49 constituencies in seven eastern districts of the state, comprised 1.72 crore people, while there were 635 candidates including 175 Independents in the fray. The turnout, marginally lower than that seen in the first five phases, was however higher than the 55.04 percent recorded in the last polls in 2012.

According to officials, 58.67 per cent polling was logged in Kushinagar, 58 per cent in Azamgarh and Gorakhpur while in Ballia, 57.27 per cent voters exercised their franchise.

With Saturday’s polling, elections to 363 constituencies of the sprawling state’s total 403 has come to an end.

Prominent candidates in the fray in Saturday’s round included Swami Prasad Maurya, who had last year switched from the Bahujan Samaj Party to the Bharatiya Janata Party, and former BJP state chief Surya Pratap Shahi.

While Maurya is contesting from Padrauna, Shahi was fighting from Pathardeva.

Voting in Azamgarh, the Lok Sabha constituency of Samajwadi Party patron Mulayam Singh Yadav, picked up considerably after recording the lowest turnout in the first few hours. Mulayam Singh did not campaign in his constituency following a fallout with his son Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who replaced him as the party President.

Mau, where mafia don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari was fielded by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), reported steady polling through the day. A minor scuffle was reported from the Sadar area in Mau where police had to resort to a baton-charge.

This phase of polls has around 20 percent of candidates with criminal record, with 109, or around 17 percent having serious criminal charges like murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, and crimes against women according to Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

Party wise, 18 out of 45 candidates from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), 24 out of 49 candidates from Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), 5 out of 36 candidates from Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), 15 out of 40 candidates from Samajwadi Party (SP), three of 10 candidates from Congress, and 22 out of 175 Independent candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits as per ADR data.

Meanwhile, Varanasi, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency and is set to vote in the last phase of polls on March 8, saw road shows being conducted by Modi, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and ally Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, and also a rally by BSP supremo Mayawati.