Lucknow: An estimated 57.36 per cent of 18.1 million electorate on Monday cast their votes amid tight security during the fifth phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh with Amethi and Faizabad assembly seats remaining the centre of attention.
The day-long poll process remained largely peaceful in 51 Assembly constituencies spread over 11 districts of the state. "57.36 per cent polling was recorded till 5pm and the figure is likely to go up as several voters waited in queues to exercise their franchise," UP Chief Electoral Officer T. Venkatesh said. The first four phases of UP polls this time saw voter turnouts of 64 per cent, 65 per cent, 61.16 per cent and 61 per cent respectively.
Though the exercise remained slow during the the first two hours in morning, it picked up pace gradually with the first-time voters seen exercising their franchise quite enthusiastically.
Prominent contestants in the phase included controversial minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati from the ruling Samajwadi Party, who is facing Amita Singh from Congress and BJP's Garima Singh in Amethi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Rahul Gandhi.
Prajapati, against whom an FIR has been lodged in an alleged rape case, said the people were with him and there was a strong wave in the favour of SP. "Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav will become the CM again," he claimed. Amita, wife of Congress leader Sanjay Singh, hoped people would support the best candidate "and I will definitely win." Garima, the first wife of Sanjay, on the other hand said there was no development in the constituency and people were facing problems. The districts that went to polls in the Vth phase are Balrampur, Gonda, Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Bahraich, Shravasti, Basti, Siddharth Nagar, Sant Kabir Nagar, Amethi and Sultanpur.
Faizabad is another hot seat with BJP's Ram Temple issue once again figuring in its election manifesto this time. Ayodhya Assembly seat, which falls in Faizabad district, used to be a traditional stronghold of BJP since the Ram Temple movement days.
But it was snatched by SP in 2012. This time the saffron party is trying to wrest it back. The turnout in these constituencies in 2012 was 57.09 per cent. Due to death of SP candidate Chandrashekhar Kanaujia in Alapur (Ambedkar Nagar), the EC has deferred the voting in the constituency to March 9.
In the 2012 Assembly polls, the Samajwadi Party had won 37 seats out of the total 52 seats (including Alapur) that went to poll in this phase. The BJP and Congress had got five seats each, the Bahujan Samaj Party 3 and Peace Party 2 out of these 57 seats.
In the present phase, the BJP contested 50 seats, leaving one seat for its ally Apna Dal. The BSP fielded candidates on 51 seats, while Samajwadi Party contested 43 and its ally Congress the rest. Some seats saw friendly fight between Congress and SP.
In all, 607 candidates were in the fray in the Vth phase with the maximum of 24 candidates running the poll in Amethi and minimum of six each in Kapilvastu and Etwa seats in Siddharth Nagar district.
Over 18.1 million voters, including over 8.4 million women, were eligible to exercise their franchise in this phase which has now sealed the fate of ministers Vinod Kumar Singh alias Pandit Singh from Tarabganj (Gonda) and Tej Narain Pandey alias Pawan Pandey from Ayodhya, besides BSP state president Ram Achal Rajbhar from Akbarpur, among others, in ballot boxes.
The pahse V polling saw Mehdawal in Sant Kabir Nagar emerging as maximum number of 438,106 voters and Tanda in Ambedkarnagar having minimum voters, a total of 304,934.
To enable electors cast their votes, a total of 12,555 polling centres and 18,822 polling booths were set up in this phase, with the EC making elaborate arrangements to ensure free and fair polls.
The phase saw the Indo-Nepal, inter-district and inter-state borders getting sealed with the para-military forces conducting flag marches in sensitive areas to instill confidence in voters.