Campaigning has ended for the first phase of polls in Uttar Pradesh, as 73 seats from west UP go to polls on Saturday, February 11.
Polling in Uttar Pradesh will begin on Saturday and continue until March 8.
The first phase will see a triangular contest between BJP, BSP and the combined force of Samajwadi Party and Congress.
All heavyweights including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, UP CM Akhilesh Yadav, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and BSP chief Mayawati campaigned in several constituencies spread in the 15 districts that go to poll on Saturday.
The districts going to polls in the first phase are Shamli, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Hapur, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Mathura, Hathras, Agra, Firozabad, Etah and Kasganj.
The 73 seats in West Uttar Pradesh include riot-scarred Muzaffarnagar and Shamli where BJP leaders like Yogi Adityanath and Sangeet Som raised the issue of alleged exodus of Hindus from some areas and accused the SP government of favouring a particular community.
The BJP urged voters to end the ‘vikas ka vanvas’ (exile of development) and projected demonetisation as an attack against corruption. PM Modi in his campaign accused Samajwadi Party and BSP of plundering the state for years. He targeted the SP-Congress alliance, saying that the two had come together to save themselves.
Modi asked people to “rid the state of SCAM – S for Samajwadi (party), C for Congress, A for Akhilesh (Yadav) and M for Mayawati”,
Akhilesh hit back by saying that SCAM actually stood for ‘Save the Country from Amit Shah and Modi’.
The Congress-SP alliance targeted the Modi government at the Centre for making the common man suffer on account of the demonetisation move and his “unfulfilled” promise of ‘acche din’.
Akhilesh also batted for his “performance” for carrying out development work in the state.
Interestingly, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh stayed away from active campaigning because of the Yadav family feud.
In her rallies, Mayawati accused the Modi government of interfering with the personal law of Muslims and ending reservations for backward communities in jobs. She targeted Akhilesh government over the law and order situation
The Muslim-dominated areas in the belt will be an acid test for BSP chief Mayawati, who is banking heavily on Dalit-Muslim vote bank.
In the last election SP and BSP had bagged 24 seats each and BJP had 11 out of the 73. The saffron party is hoping to improve its tally as it had bagged 71 out of 80 seats in the state in the 2014 general election, but this time the SP-Congress tie-up has added a new dimension to the contest.
The region is also a stronghold of Rashtriya Lok Dal of Ajit Singh which had bagged nine seats while the Congress had got only five.
(With inputs from PTI)