The first phase of mammoth seven-leg polls in Uttar Pradesh has begun on Saturday. On test is the might of the BJP, which had swept all the seats in the region in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, arithmetic of BSP, the chemistry of SP-Congress alliance, and Ajit Singh led RLD’s fight for relevance.
In total over 2.5 crore voters have the key to 73 seats going to polls on Saturday. An eye will be on the polling percentage too.
839 candidates from BJP, BSP, Congress-Samajwadi Party, and RLD as well as independents, are in the fray from the seats in 15 districts.
The largest constituency in terms of electorate is Sahibabad, while Jalesar is the smallest. The maximum number of 26 candidates are in fray from Agra South, while the least number of aspirants are in Hastinapur which has six candidates.
Prominent contestants include Pankaj Singh (Noida seat), son of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Pradeep Mathur (Mathura) against whom BJP spokesman Srikant Sharma is in fray, Mriganka Singh (Kairana), daugther of BJP MP Hukum Singh and controversial BJP MLAs Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana – Sardhan and Thanabhawan respectively.
Former BJP state president Lakshmikant Bajpai(Meerut), RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s son-in-law Rahul Singh (SP) from Sikandarabad, and Sandeep Singh, grandson of Rajasthan Govenor Kalyan Singh from Atrauli are some other key figures.
In 2012, both SP and BSP bagged 24 seats each, with Rashtriya Lok Dal headed by Ajit Singh bagging nine and Congress five and BJP 11.
While the BJP is hoping to improve its performance, going by its sweep in t he Lok Sabha three years ago, regional outfit RLD will be fighting to stay relevant. Both the parties have wooed Jats, politically significant in this region, during its campaign.
Meanwhile, elaborate security arrangements have been made in all districts. District Election Officer DK Singh said out of 887 polling centres in riot-scarred Muzaffarnagar, around 600 are critical where video cameras will be installed to maintain the strict vigil.
Around 6,000 paramilitary personnel are being deployed in all the 887 polling centres in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring Shamli to instill a sense of fearlessness among voters, especially with focus on the areas which had witnessed communal riots in 2013.
The Muslim-dominated areas in the belt will also be an acid test for BSP chief Mayawati, who is banking heavily on Dalit and Muslim votes. The region was once BSP’s favourite hunting ground.
(With inputs from the PTI)