Lucknow: The fourth phase of polling for 53 assembly constituencies of Uttar Pradesh on February 23 passed off amid stray incidents of violence, with an estimated over 61 per cent voter turnout.
This phase of voting was crucial for the state’s ruling Samajwadi Party and main opposition BSP, both major contenders for power this time too, as they had won nearly 40 of these seats in the previous polls.
“Polling was held in 53 assembly constituencies spread over 12 districts, including the backward Bundelkhand region,” the office of UP chief electoral officer said.
The turnout was 61 per cent till 5pm and since many voters stood in queue inside the polling stations at the appointed hour for conclusion of the exercise, the final figure was set to go up to 63 per cent, sources said.
Violence was reported in Mahoba where two rival groups clashed leading to firing in which three persons were injured. The clash took place when vehicles of SP candidate Siddhgopal Sahu’s son Saket Sahu and BSP candidate Arimardan Singh’s son Himanchal Singh collided, leading to firing allegedly by Singh and his supporters.
Two of the injured — Lala Bhaiya and Tariq — were rushed to a hospital, where their condition was stated to be stable, police said.
An FIR has been lodged in this connection and two persons have been arrested, they said.
The pace of voting was slow in the first few hours but picked up as the day advanced.
The constituencies where polling was held on Thursday included those in the backward Bundelkhand region and the Nehru-Gandhi pocket borough of Rae Bareli, represented in the Lok Sabha by Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
For the first time since 1998, Gandhi gave campaigning a miss in her constituency.
Other districts where polling was held amid tight security were Pratapgarh, Kaushambi, Allahabad, Jalaun, Jhansi, Lalitpur, Mahoba, Banda, Hamirpur, Chitrakoot and Fatehpur.
Backward and parched Bundelkhand region also figured in this phase.
Inter-district and inter-state borders were sealed to facilitate peaceful voting and most polling centres were manned by the central paramilitary forces.
680 candidates, including 61 women, were in the fray for 53 seats.
In the 2012 Assebmly polls, Samajwadi Party had won 24, BSP 15, Congress six, BJP five and others three seats.
The maximum number of 26 candidates were from Allahabad North, while only six candidates were in fray in Khaga (Fatehpur), Manjhanpur (Kaushambi) and Kunda (Pratapgarh).
BSP fielded its nominees in all 53 seats, while BJP’s candidate were in 48 constituencies, as the saffron party left six seats for its ally Apana Dal.
The SP nominees contested on 30 seats and its ally Congress was in fray in 25 constituencies. The two allies are locked in a friendly contest in two seats.
Prominent contestants include sitting Congress MLA Aradhana Mishra from Rampur Khas (Pratapgarh), the daughter of party veteran and MP Pramod Tiwari, and independent MLA Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya. Raja Bhaiya, known for his muscle power, is a minister in the Akhilesh Yadav cabinet and is again contesting from his traditional Kunda (Pratapgarh) seat.
In Rae Bareli, Aditi Singh is contesting on Congress ticket, BSP turncoat Swami Prasad Maurya’s son Utkarsh Maurya is in fray from Unchahar seat, while the Leader of Opposition Gaya Charan Dinkar is contesting from Naraini (Banda) seat.
Senior SP leader Reoti Raman Singh’s son Ujjwal Raman Singh is in the race from Karchana (Allahabad) seat.
Elections for UP legislative assembly are being held in seven phases with three more to follow on February 27, March 4 and 8. The results will be out on March 11.
Barring stray incidents, polling went off peacefully in all the 12 Assembly constituencies in Allahabad where nearly 55 per cent of 4.36 million voters decided the fates of 181 candidates.
The turnout remained slightly lower than 55.35 of 2012 though it was still higher than that of 2007 (43.94) and 2002 (47.75). Soraon in trans-Ganga recorded the highest turnout at 61 per cent while the lowest (43 per cent) was at Allahabad (North). Significantly, the predominantly urban Allahabad (North) had registered the lower turnout, at 40.9 per cent, in 2012 as well. It did witness brisk polling between 11 A.M. and 1 P.M. as the turnout shot up from 10 per cent to 26 per cent during this period.
In Atkhariya village falling under Meja Assembly segment, BJP workers indulged in stone-pelting complaining of a sub-inspector “trying to influence voting in favour of the ruling Samajwadi Party”.
“No person has been arrested in this connection since there was no evidence to support the allegations made by the political activists. However, we sent additional forces to the affected area as a precautionary measure,” Allahabad Senior Superintendent of Police Shalabh Mathur said.
There was some tension in Shankargarh block of trans-Yamuna region where a group of villagers were allegedly beaten up by some security personnel at a polling centre established inside a government inter-college. Angry villagers decided to boycott polling in protest but were pacified by officials on duty.
Notable among those who cast their votes today were Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court D B Bhosle, West Bengal Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi, Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya and the party’s national secretary Siddharth Nath Singh. Singh is also the party candidate from Allahabad (West).