Lucknow(IANS): Starting on a sluggish note, voting across 56 constituencies, including Lucknow, in the fourth phase of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections Sunday picked up pace through the day to end at an estimated 57 percent, officials said. Polling was peaceful.
The turnout was a marked improvement over the 2007 state elections when the turnout stood at a paltry 42 percent and an all time low of 36 percent in Lucknow, where Sunday it shot up to about 55 percent.
In other key places like Rae Bareli and Amethi, the parliamentary constituencies of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi respectively, the voter turnout was also recorded at about 57 percent.
Pegging the turnout at 57 percent and likely to rise, state chief electoral officer Umesh Sinha expressed his satisfaction at the voters’ enthusiasm.
“I am glad that voting has gone way ahead of the last election. In fact, that was the endeavour of the election commission,” he said.
“Sure enough, our efforts to inculcate the urge for voting appears to have borne fruit even in Lucknow, where the turnout rose from 36 percent in 2007 to 55 percent today (Sunday),” he added.
Long queues were visible at polling centres not only in the older parts of Lucknow but in the rest of the city with the youth in particular comming out to vote in large numbers.
As many as 1.72 crore voters were to elect their representatives for 56 assembly constituencies spread across 11 districts — Lucknow, Hardoi, Unnao, Rae Bareli, Chattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Nagar (Amethi), Farrukhabad, Kannauj, Banda, Chitrakoot, Fatehpur and Pratapgarh — where over 18,000 polling stations were set up for Sunday’s poll.
Of the 976 candidates in the fray, 103 have criminal cases pending against them.
About 139 multi-millionaires were also in the fray for the fourth phase, that would test the fate of several political heavyweights including three ministers, 32 sitting legislators, 12 former ministers, and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s vice president.
The phase was an acid test for the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which had the maximum at stake, since the party had bagged 25 of the 56 seats in 2007. Samajwadi Party followed with a tally of 14. Of the remaining, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress had bagged seven seats each and two seats had gone to independents.
For the BJP, the absence of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was pinching, specially in Lucknow, which he had represented in parliament till 2009. However, party leaders were still euphoric at their chances.
“First of all I must thank the election comission whose efforts are responsible for this appreciable rise in the voter turnout today. But another important fact that cannot be ignored is that voters are coming out in larger numbers simply to express their anger against the misdeeds of the ruling BSP as well as SP, whose misgovernance they have experienced just prior to Mayawati’s,” former BJP president and former UP chief minister Rajnath Singh told reporters shortly after casting his vote here.
“BJP is all set to get a majority in this state,” said BJP’s chief campaigner Uma Bharti.
The Congress was also upbeat about its chances and attributed the high turnout to the efforts of Rahul Gandhi.
“The higher voter turnout is all attributable to the painstaking campaign carried out Rahul Gandhi and I have reason to believe that the youth of this state is impressed by him. Therefore, the Congress is all set for a major stride and return to power in this state,” said party state chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi.