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UP polls: Voting begins for second phase on slow note

Lucknow: Polling began on Saturday on a slow note for the second phase of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections for 59 seats in 10 districts that will decide the fate of two state presidents, 31 MLAs and 24 former ministers.

More than 1.92 crore voters are expected to cast their votes to seal the fate of 1,098 candidates in the polling to be held in Sant Kabir Nagar, Maharajganj, Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, Deoria, Azamgarh, Mau, Ballia and Ghazipur, Chief Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha said in Lucknow.

Stakes are high for ruling BSP, Congress, SP and the BJP in the no-holds-barred fight for the 403 Assembly seats in the seven-phase polls. The voters will exercise their franchise at 20,425 polling booths at 12,995 polling centres.

3,265 polling booths have been identified as sensitive and 9,971 as hyper sensitive for which adequate force has been deployed, he said.

Total 1098 candidates are in fray, including 1,021 men and 76 women.

The second phase would seal the fate of many senior leaders, including speaker Sukhdeo Rajbhar, revenue minister Phagu Chauhan, state presidents of BSP and BJP, deputy leader of SP Ambika Chaudhary, 31 MLAs and 24 former ministers.

Vidhan Sabha Speaker Rajbhar is in fray as BSP candidate from newly-created Deedarganj seat in Azamgarh district, whereas deputy leader of SP in Assembly Ambika Chaudhary is seeking re-run from Phephna in Ballia.

Prestige of state presidents of BSP and BJP is also at the stake in this phase.

While BSP state president and cabinet minister Swami Prasad Maurya is contesting from Padrauna seat in Kushinagar, BJP state president Surya Pratap Shahi is trying his luck from newly-created Pathardeva seat in Deoria district.

Former BJP state president Ramapati Ram Tripathi is in the fray from Siswan seat in Maharajganj district, whereas revenue minister Phagu Chauhan is contesting from Ghosi seat in Mau district.

Former forest minister Fateh Bahadur Singh, who was sacked and denied ticket by chief minister Mayawati, is contesting from Kampiarganj candidate on NCP ticket.

Naresh Yadav, son of MP Governor Ram Naresh Yadav, has been pitched against BJP candidate Yogendra Yadav, nephew of MP Ramakant Yadav as Congress nominee for Phoolpur seat in Azamgarh district.

Aman Tripathi, son of SP MLA Amarmani Tripathi, facing jail term in poetess Madhumita murder case, is in the fray for Nautanwa seat in Maharajganj district.

Independent MLA Mukhtar Ansari, facing several criminal charges, is contesting from two seats Mau and Ghosi and is the candidate of his brother Afzal Ansari’s party Kaumi Ekta Dal.

For Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which had secured maximum of 29 seats out of 59 seats in the 2007 Assembly polls, it would be a do-or-die situation as betterment of performance by rivals would botch political prospects of the party, which was mired in controversies due to corruption cases.

Samajwadi Party is also under pressure to perform in the area to increase its tally from 20 seats in the 2007 Assembly polls. The party’s performance in the region could help it in catapulting to power, SP leaders feel.

BJP’s performance has not been upto the mark in last elections. In 2007, BJP had succeeded in getting victory on six seats only.

Congress, which secured only two seats in the last elections, is also making desperate efforts to improve its tally in the region.

While Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi has toured eastern UP, party president Sonia Gandhi had addressed a rally in Deoria.

Going by the 2007 record on these seats, BSP had won 29 seats while SP secured 20, BJP six and Congress and independents two seats respectively.

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