SP strongholds face tough battle in third phase as UP polls cross half-way mark | assembly-elections | Hindustan Times
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SP strongholds face tough battle in third phase as UP polls cross half-way mark

Despite having won 55 of these seats in 2012, the SP is on the edge because of the protracted bitter infighting and resurgent opposition. Now, even the safest of SP seats might see a tough contest.

assembly elections Updated: Feb 19, 2017 10:01 IST
Election officials check EVMs on the eve of the third phase of the UP assembly polls in Lucknow on Saturday.
Election officials check EVMs on the eve of the third phase of the UP assembly polls in Lucknow on Saturday. (PTI Photo)

By Sunday end, the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections will have crossed the half-way mark—both in terms of number of districts and constituencies.

Of 75 districts and 403 assembly constituencies, after Sunday, only 194 assembly segments in 37 districts will be left for polling in the remaining four phases.

The third phase with 24 million voters in 69 seats is the most crucial for the ruling Samajwadi Party as it contains the ruling Yadav family’s strongholds, including home districts of Etawah and Mainpuri—and the critical Lucknow, the state capital.

Despite having won 55 of these seats in 2012, the SP is on the edge because of the protracted bitter infighting and resurgent opposition. Now, even the safest of SP seats might see a tough contest.

The BSP, with only six MLAs, and the BJP, with five, are trying their best to take advantage of the Yadav family feud.

Sunday’s polling will decide the fates of Shivpal Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav, his nephew Anurag Yadav and Akhilesh’s aide Anurag Singh.

Also in the fray are BJP leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who is fighting against Aparna Yadav, SP ministers Nitin Agarwal and Abhishek Mishra and BSP heavyweight Nakul Dubey.

SP minister and MP Naresh Agrawal’s son Nitin is contesting from Hardoi while minister Farid Mahmood Kidwail is contesting from his current seat Kursi (in Barabanki). Another minister, Arvind Singh ‘Gope’ is fighting to retain his Ramnagar seat in Barabanki.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh’s influence on the five Lucknow seats under his Lucknow Lok Sabha constituency, will come under test.

The polls will also tell whether the big-ticket projects of Akhilesh Yadav government in Lucknow—the Metro, Janeshwar Mishra Park, Gomti River Front—will convert into votes.

Unlike the previous two phases, the third phase has the highest number of big fights, and figures many first-timers among the 826 candidates.

The phase will be critical for both Akhilesh and Shivpal, who were locked in a bruising months-long feud for party control. The chief minister’s move to replace 20 winners with new candidates will be put to test. For Shivpal, it will determine whether the leader, who is contesting the elections as a loner without any support from the party, is able to win on his own.

Read | UP elections: Why a hung assembly can’t be ruled out in this battleground state

The region where voting takes place is one through which the SP government’s flagship Agra-Lucknow expressway passes through. The area comprises the potato belt, and Kannauj’s famed perfume industry.

The usually predictable Yadav pocket boroughs of Etawah and Mainpuri and the rest of the Yadav land—comprising Kannauj, Farukkhabad and Auriya—might see close contests this time.

Election machinery too would be under observation for voters’ turnout. Last time, the third phase polled 59.75% whereas the first and second phases this time have polled 64.22% and 65.16% votes.

After Sunday, there will be four more polling days—phase 4 on February 23, phase 5 on February 27, phase 6 on March 4, and the last one on March 8.

The results will be declared on March 11.