Lucknow: Stage is set for the grand finale to the staggered Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls as the seventh and the last phase covering 40 seats will be held on Wednesday, with all eyes on the Prime Minister's Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi.
Three Naxal-affected districts of Sonbhadra, Mirzapur and Chandauli, along with the five Assembly segments under Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency, will be in prime focus. Ghazipur, Jaunpur and Bhadoi are the other districts going to polls in this phase.
Tight security has been put in place in these seven districts. Counting of votes polled in all the seven phases of the Assembly polls will be taken up on March 11. Polling will be held between 7am to 5pm in all constituencies, except the Naxal-hit Duddhi, Robertsganj and Chakia seats, where polling will end at 4pm. A total of 14.1 million voters, including 6.47 million women, are eligible to exercise their franchise in 14,458 polling booths.
The BJP is contesting 32 seats and its allies the Apana Dal and the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party are contesting on 4 seats each.
The Bahujan Samaj Party has fielded its nominees for all seats. While the Samajwadi Party is contesting 31 seats, its ally the Congress is in race for the remaining seats.
In the 2012 state Assembly polls, out of these 40 seats, 23 went to the SP, 5 to the BSP, 4 to the BJP, 3 to the Congress and 5 to others. In all, 535 candidates, including 40 (BSP), 32 (BJP), 31 (SP), 9 (Congress), 21 (RLD) and 5 (NCP) are in the fray.
While the maximum number of candidates (24) are from the Varanasi Cantt seat, the minimum number of candidates (six) are contesting from Kerakat (SC). For the last phase, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent three days in Varanasi, where he visited temples, held a roadshow and attended a number of public events. He also addressed several rallies in the region to give a final push to the BJP campaign.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi also matched it with their own campaign blitz in the region. Joined by Akhilesh's wife Dimple, the two leaders held a roadshow, hours after Modi arrived in the city and paid obeisance at the Kashi Vishwanath and Kal Bhairav temples with much fanfare.
BSP chief Mayawati, who is seeking a fifth term as chief minister, also addressed a rally in Rohaniya, around 20km from Varanasi on the same day. Prominent candidates who are in fray include former Cabinet minister Om Prakash, Parasnath Yadav, Ajay Rai, former MP Dhananjay Singh, Sigbatullah Ansari brother of Mukhtar Ansari and Seema Singh wife of jailed mafia Munna Bajrangi. Polling in Alapur seat will be held on Thursday.
Voting in this constituency was postponed following the demise of a candidate belonging to a recognised political party. The Election Commission has also postponed telecast of exit polls till 5:30pm on Thursday, keeping this polling in mind.