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UP may go to Samajwadi, blow to Rahul as vote ends

New Delhi(IANS): The Samajwadi Party was most likely to take power in Uttar Pradesh amid a hung assembly, exit polls said Saturday as staggered balloting ended in India’s most populous state with a record voting by 60 percent of its 127 million voters.

An Indian woman voter gives her thumb impression before casting her vote inside a polling station in Gajrola, about 95 kilometers (59 miles) from New Delhi, India, Saturday, March 3, 2012. Polling for the seventh and final phase of India’s largest and the most populous state Uttar Pradesh, covering 60 constituencies began on Saturday. More than 18.2 million voters will decide the fate of 962 candidates in this phase of polling. APThree of four exit polls were unanimous that no one party would command a majority in the 403-member state legislature but the Samajwadi would be on top of a mainly four-horse race that began Feb 8.

The surveys by India TV-C voter, News 24-Chanakya and Star News-Nielsen gave the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav between 141 and 185 seats, leaving the now ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Mayawati at a distant second spot.

The CNN-IBN-The Week-CSDS post poll survey did not give any figures but suggested that “a Samajwadi wave” could propel it to an outright majority. The three surveys gave the BSP, which stunned everyone in 2007 by taking power on its own, 85 to 126 seats, far below the magical 206 seats it captured five years ago.

Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders disowned the findings. The BSP was silent. The estimated 60 million votes cast in the seven-phase election would be counted Tuesday — along with the votes polled in Goa, Punjab, Manipur and Uttarakhand.

The exit polls are seen as bad news for the BJP but more so for Congress leading campaigner Rahul Gandhi, who had been expected to put his party on the victory lap in a state where it has been out of power since 1989.

After the seventh and final round of balloting ended Saturday in 10 districts and 60 constituencies, the Election Commission said an all-time high of 59.16 percent had voted in the 2012 assembly elections.

The percentage surpassed all past records in the state involving both the Lok Sabha and assembly battles.

The previous highest voting percentage was 57.13 in the 1993 assembly polls, which followed the 1992 razing of the Babri mosque. The least ever polling took place in the simultaneous elections for the assembly (39.29 percent) and Lok Sabha (38.41 percent) in 1951-52 — the first after the country became independent.

In the 2007 elections, while only one district in the sprawling Uttar Pradesh polled more than 60 percent votes, this figure rose to 37 in 2012. The elections witnessed a major surge in voting in all major cities including Lucknow, Allahabad, Meerut and Ghaziabad bordering Delhi, partly due to Election Commission appeals to people to vote without fail.

Although elections took place in five states in February-March, most attention was focussed on Uttar Pradesh, India’s politically crucial state that has given the country a majority of its prime ministers.

With Rahul Gandhi plunging aggressively into the electoral battle, targeting Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav with equal vehemence, Congress leaders were hopeful that he would come up with a magic wand.

But the CNN-IBN survey said the Congress was poised to retain its fourth spot in Uttar Pradesh, raising questions over Gandhi’s leadership. It said the party had lost the traditional Muslim voter and failed to make inroads into the upper caste community.

Saturday’s polling passed off peacefully. But 17 policewomen going for election work were injured when their bus overturned in Moradabad. On Friday night, returning officers of two polling booths — in Bijnor and Moradabad districts — died following heart attack.

A total of 6,839 candidates were in the fray across Utttar Pradesh. The number for Saturday was 962, including 100 women.

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