It's a crucial battle for the Samajwadi Party as the state enters the fourth phase of the assembly election on Monday. The party's performance in this phase will play a decisive role in its race for power - in the 2002 election, the region had returned 31 SP MLAs.
This phase will also test the influence of rebel SP MP Beni Prasad Verma, who had floated the Samajwadi Kranti Dal (SKD) to pull the rug from under the feet of his long-time friend, Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. Verma, who has joined hands with the Congress, has been banking on the Kurmi vote in the region. Similarly, the fourth phase is also a major test for the BJP, which had won 14 seats in 2002.
Talking to newsmen in Lucknow on Sunday, Chief Electoral Officer AK Bishnoi said tight security arrangements had been made for polling in 57 constituencies spread over 10 districts. He said 1.55 crore voters would decide the fate of 922 candidates, including 63 women. Among the voters are 84.29 lakh men and 71.27 lakh women. While Nanpara (Bahraich) is the biggest constituency with 3.41 lakh voters, the smallest is Machraheta with 2.23 lakh voters.
The commission had deployed nearly 650 companies of central para-military forces, 35 companies of PAC and 35,000 civil police.
The fourth phase will decide the fate of Labour Minister Waqar Ahmad Shah, who is pitted against SKD's Reshma Arif, wife of BJP leader Arif Mohammad Khan; retired IAS officer and Congress nominee PL Punia who is the arch-rival of BSP Chief Mayawati. While the BSP had deployed senior leaders in Fatehpur to ensure Punia's defeat, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi had campaigned for him. Other prominent candidates are Beni Verma's son Rakesh Verma, Congress leader Jagdambika Pal, Assembly Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey and SP's Geeta Singh, wife of senior IPS officer Yashpal Singh.