Lucknow: Voting for the seventh and final phase of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections covering 54 seats, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency Varanasi, will be held on Monday to decide the phase of 613 candidates. Polling will start at 7 am and will continue till 6 pm in Azamgarh, Mau, Jaunpur, Ghazipur, Chandauli, Varanasi, Mirzapur, Bhadohi and Sonbhadra districts.
The campaigning for the final phase ended on Saturday with the BJP and its rival parties attacking each other on a range of issues from handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, law and order, economic and security situation to farmers’ stir.
Polling on these 54 seats will also mark the end of the almost month-long voting process in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh that had began on February 10 after the announcement of elections in mid-January.
The counting of votes will be undertaken on March 10.
Of the 54 seats in this phase, 11 are reserved for the Scheduled Castes and two for the Scheduled Tribes. There are 2.06 crore eligible voters. This final round will also be a test of the alliances carved out by both the BJP and Samajwadi Party with small caste-based parties.
BJP’s allies Apna Dal (Sonelal) and Nishad Party and Akhilesh Yadav’s new friends Apna Dal (K), Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) of Om Prakash Rajbhar and others have been trying to rally their supporters.
Once considered a stronghold of the Samajwadi Party, the region saw the BJP making inroads in 2017 by winning 29 seats along with its allies Apna Dal (4) and SBSP (3). The BSP got six seats and the Samajwadi Party 11 seats. For the Samajwadi Party, its patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav made a rare appearance in Jaunpur to drum up support for Lucky Yadav, son of his long-time associate late Parasnath Yadav in the fray from Malhani seat.
Mulayam Singh had earlier campaigned for his son and party president Akhilesh Yadav on Karhal seat in Mainpuri. Besides UP Tourism Minister Neelkanth Tiwari (Varanasi south) other ministers in the fray in the last leg are Anil Rajbhar (Shivpur-Varanasi), Ravindra Jaiswal (Varanasi north), Girish Yadav (Jaunpur)and Ramashankar Singh Patel (Marihan-Mirzapur).
Dara Singh Chauhan, who had resigned from the Yogi Adityanath cabinet and joined the Samajwadi Party, is contesting from Ghosi in Mau. SBSP president Om Prakash Rajbhar (Zahoorabad), Dhananjay Singh (Malhani-Jaunpur) as JD(U) candidate and Abbas Ansari, son of mafia-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari, from Mau Sadar seat are contesting in this phase.
The campaigning in the last phase reached its crescendo with Prime Minister Modi leading the BJP’s poll blitzkrieg in Varanasi and its adjoining districts. Besides addressing election rallies, he also held a roadshow for three assembly constituencies of Cantt, Varanasi North and Varanasi South.
This phase also saw Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee descending on the pilgrim city to hold a joint rally with SP president Akhilesh Yadav and his RLD ally Jayant Chaudhary.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had been camping in Varanasi for about four days and she along with her brother Rahul Gandhi addressed election meetings, whereas BSP supremo Mayawati also campaigned in the district and neighbouring areas.
Seeking to override anti-incumbency, the ruling party raised issues like forced migration and law and order problems during the previous Samajwadi Party government while SP chief Akhilesh Yadav targeted the BJP government on issues of inflation, unemployment, stray cattle menace and farmers’ agitation against agri laws.
The mowing down of four farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri was also highlighted by all opposition parties as Union minister Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra is accused in the case.