UP assembly election: SP heavyweights in the fray in phase 3 | assembly-elections$uttarpradesh-2017 | Hindustan Times
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UP assembly election: SP heavyweights in the fray in phase 3

Uttar Pradesh geared up for the third phase of assembly elections on Sunday with 24 million voters going to the polls in 69 seats considered the most crucial for the ruling Samajwadi Party.

assembly elections Updated: Feb 19, 2017 07:55 IST
Pankaj Jaiswal
Uttar Pradesh
Election officers gather at a distribution center to receive electronic voting machines for their respective polling stations on the eve of polling in Lucknow, India, Saturday, February 18, 2017. (AP Photo)

Uttar Pradesh begins voting in the third phase of assembly elections on Sunday with 24 million voters going to the polls in 69 seats considered the most crucial for the ruling Samajwadi Party.

The phase covers strongholds of the ruling Yadav family – the Kanpur and Avadh regions – but experts warn that many of the so-called safe seats might see close fights because of a resurgent opposition and bitter infighting within the SP.

Of the 69 constituencies in 12 districts which go to polls, the SP had won 55 in 2012. But spurred by infighting, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav changed candidates on as many as 20 seats.

Many party heavyweights – including senior leaders Shivpal Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav – are in the poll fray.

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

The phase will be critical for both Akhilesh and Shivpal, who were locked in a bruising months-long fight for party control. The chief minister’s move of replacing 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.

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 perfume industry.

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

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

Read | Yadav family feud has led to the desolation of Shivpal Yadav on SP’s turf in UP

Sunday’s polling will decide the fates 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 facing off against Aparna Yadav, SP ministers Nitin Agarwal and Abhishek Mishra, BSP heavyweight Nakul Dubey, and many more.

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.

This phase is also a test for the Union minister Rajnath Singh’s influence on the five Lucknow seats in his Lucknow Lok Sabha constituency. But at the same time, it will tell if the big-ticket Lucknow projects of Akhilesh Yadav government --the Metro, Janeshwar Mishra Park, Gomti River Front, will convert into votes.

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

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