Bringing down the curtain on a staggered election process, 40 assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh and 22 in Manipur will vote on Wednesday in the last and final phase of polling.
In the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, all eyes will be on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi.
In the remote northeastern state, fate of bigwigs like chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, deputy CM Gaikhangam and human rights activist-turned-politician Irom Chanu Sharmila will be decided.
Electioneering in five states of UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur kick-started with the announcement of polling dates on January 4.
These elections are also considered as a mid-term verdict on Modi-led NDA government at the Centre, which came to power in 2014, promising better days.
Around 1.40 crore voters are expected to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 535 candidates, spread across seven districts of eastern UP in the seventh phase.
This phase is very crucial for the ruling Samajwadi Party that won 21 out of the 40 seats in the region in 2012. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had then won five seats and the BJP bagged four seats, three in Varanasi and one in Jaunpur. The Congress emerged victorious only in three seats, one each in Mirzapur, Varanasi and Jaunpur.
Modi addressed three rallies in the temple town of Varanasi and held back-to-back road shows. Varanasi North, South, Cantonment, Rohania and Sevapuri are the five assembly seats that constitute the PM’s parliamentary constituency.
“Winning these seats in Varanasi is very crucial for Modi for several reasons. One, the BJP has been winning the Varanasi South and Cantonment seas for the last several elections. Two, Modi has campaigned hard in his parliamentary constituency. If the party loses, the opposition will get a chance to target the PM,” said Kaushal Kishore Mishra, a professor at Banaras Hindu University’s political science department.
Maximum number of candidates having criminal records is in the fray in this phase. In percentage terms, 22% of the candidates have criminal records. In the first phase, 21% candidates with criminal records were in the fray. On an average, 18% of the candidates across all phases have criminal records.
The administration has completed all arrangements for smooth polling amid tight security.
In Manipur, the challenge before the administration is to repeat the high voter turnout of the first phase, where 86% of the total voters exercised their franchise without any major incident of violence on Saturday.
“Voting will be held at 1151 polling stations spread across 10 valley and hill districts of the state, which will be manned by 5755 polling personnel along with adequate security personnel,” said Chief Electoral Officer Vivek Kumar Dewangan.
“All 375 polling stations in Thoubal and some in hill districts having internet connection will be covered by live web streaming to monitor activities inside the polling stations while remaining stations will be recorded (offline) by smart phones” he added.
The ruling Congress had won 15 of these 22 seats in the last assembly elections. The BJP could not open its account despite fielding 19 candidates. This time the party is hoping to do better and gave candidates in all the constituencies.
Naga People’ Front put up 11,National People’s Party 7,Trinamool Congress 6,Lok Jan Shakti 5, Manipur National Democratic Front 4,Independendent 9,CPI and state’s iconic rights activist Irom Sharmila’s PRJA 2 each, Manipur People’s Party and People’s Democratic Alliance one each.
Ibobi Singh and Sharmila are contesting from Thoubal seat. Gaikhangam, three others ministers M Okendro, D Korungthang, MD Abdul Nasir besides former ministers Francis Ngajokpa, Samuel Jendai DD Thaisii are in the fray. CM’s son Surjakumar is also contesting from Khangabok in this phase.