The star-studded campaigning for the second phase in 58 constituencies came to a close in 10 districts in western UP on Wednesday. The polling will be on April 13.
Talking to newsmen in Lucknow on Wednesday the additional chief electoral officer Mritunjay Kumar Narayan said that in order to ensure free and fair elections the commission had also deployed 100 micro observers. He said 1.64 crore voters would decide the fate of 881 candidates in the second phase. Narayan said 657 companies of central para-medical forces had been deployed and district administrations had been directed to map out vulnerable areas to ensure voting by the weaker section.
With the Election Commission making the tightest-ever security arrangements, polling is going to be crucial for the traditional power contenders- Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), BSP and BJP in the region. The ruling Samajwadi Party had been a marginal player in the region. The Congress with Rahul Gandhi's road shows has been making determined efforts to improve its tally. The AICC Chief Sonia Gandhi also addressed a series of rallies.
"Jatland" as the region is known, had been notorious for poll violence and booth capturing. However, Narayan said adequate security measures had been taken for a peaceful election. He said nobody would be allowed to hamper the election process in the region. Commenting on the security arrangement the leader of teachers' group in Vidhan Parishad Om Prakash Sharma told HT on the phone from Meerut on Wednesday that "there is feeling in the region that the weaker section, which was stopped from voting in the past, would be able to cast vote".
While Jat-led RLD's stakes are high in the second phase, BSP by fielding nearly a dozen Jat candidates has put spoke in its plan. The RLD had been thriving on the Jat-Muslim combination over the years. "But Mayawati's Jatav-Muslim combination and Congress move to win over minority community has also upset the RLD's applecart," said Sharma. In the 2002 assembly elections 58 constituencies had returned 15 BSP, 11 RLD, eight SP, 10 BJP, six Congress, three Rashtriya Kranti Party (RKP), three independents one each Janata Party and LCP MLAs.
However, the scenario has changed in Bulandshahr and Aligarh regions after the return of Kalyan Singh to the Saffron brigade. Singh had considerably damaged the BJP in the two districts in the last elections because of the large presence of the Lodh community. Even though Muslims are fragmented in the region, Sharma said that there was definite tilt in favour of the Congress. "Rahul Gandhi's forays into the region would help the party," Sharma said. On the other hand RLD has been trying damage control with the help of SP MPs Dr Shafiqur Rahman Barq (Moradabad) and Munawwar Hasan (Muzaffarnagar) who had deserted the parent party to help the RLD.