Lucknow: A 61.16 percent voter turnout was recorded in the third phase of the seven-phase Uttar Pradesh polls which concluded by and large peacefully on Sunday.
As many as 69 Assembly constituencies in the Yadav heartland, considered crucial for the ruling Samajwadi Party in the state, went to the polls in this phase.
“Turnout of voters was 61.16 percent when polling drew to a close at 5 PM,” UP Chief Electoral Officer T Venkatesh said.
He said the exercise was held by and large peacefully in this phase, adding that tight security arrangements were put in place at all the 25,603 polling booths.
In the 2012 Assembly and 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the turnout in these areas was 59.96 and 58.43 percent respectively.
The polling percentage was 64.2 in the first phase of the ongoing election and a little over 65 in the second phase.
Besides BSP supremo Mayawati, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh cast his vote along with his family members in Lucknow, while Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav voted in Saifai (Etawah).
Most of the leaders claimed that the parties they represent will form the next government in the state.
Mayawati, who cast her vote in the Mall Avenue area here, told reporters that BSP would win over 300 of the 403 seats. “Unlike the Congress and BJP, I am not saying this without any basis. The way the people are attending my rallies, I can say that I am going to form the next government. The people of the state want change as they are fed up with the misrule and goonda raj of SP,” she said.
In a similar refrain, Singh, after casting his vote here, claimed that the BJP would secure an absolute majority in UP.
At Saifai, Akhilesh said, “The voters have made up their minds in favour of the SP-Congress alliance.”
Polling in this phase began slowly but picked up pace later. There were reports of minor skirmishes between the supporters of the candidates at some polling booths.
SP leader and Akhilesh’s uncle Shivpal Yadav complained that his supporters were attacked by the “political opponents” in his Jaswantnagar constituency.
In the 2012 Assembly polls, the SP had won 55 of these 69 seats, while the BSP, BJP and Congress had secured only six, five and two seats respectively. One seat was won by an independent.
There were 826 candidates in the fray in the third phase whose fate will be decided by 2.41 crore voters, including 1.10 crore women and 1,026 people belonging to the ‘third gender’ category.
Besides SP strongholds Kannauj, Mainpuri and Etawah, Lucknow (the Lok Sabha constituency of Rajnath Singh), Farrukhabad, Hardoi, Auraiya, Kanpur Dehat, Kanpur, Unnao, Barabanki and Sitapur were among the 12 districts where polling was held on Sunday.
Etawah is the native place of SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, while another key district is Mainpuri, which is represented in Parliament by SP’s Tej Pratap Yadav. Dimple Yadav, the wife of Akhilesh, is the MP from Kannauj.
In the third phase, the maximum of 4,98,573 voters exercised their franchise in the Sarojini Nagar seat in Lucknow, while the minimum of 2,72,294 voters were in Sisamau.
The highest number of 21 candidates were in Etawah and the minimum of three in Haidergarh (Barabanki). Lucknow West and Central had 17 candidates each.
Prominent among those, whose prestige is at stake, are Nitin Agarwal, son of SP leader Naresh Agarwal, from Hardoi, BSP turncoat Brijesh Pathak from Lucknow (Central) on a BJP ticket and Congress turncoat Rita Bahuguna Joshi (now in BJP), who is pitted against Mulayam’s daughter-in-law Aparna from Lucknow Cantt.
SP leader Shivpal too is a key figure in this round. He is contesting from Jaswantnagar.
Congress leader PL Punia’s son Tanuj Punia is trying his luck from the Jaidpur seat in Barabanki.
Interestingly, the much-vaunted ‘kaam bolta hai’ (work speaks) slogan of Akhilesh faced a litmus test in the battle of ballots in the state capital, the crucible of his dream projects. Akhilesh (43) has used the development card to the hilt during his campaign across the state, often highlighting his work in and around Lucknow, the city of Nawabs, doing away with the traditional SP politics that hinged on caste equations and dependence on the ‘M-Y’ (Muslim-Yadav) factor.
The next four phases of polling will be held on February 23, 27 and on March 4 and 8. Counting of votes will be taken up on March 11.