The third phase of polling in 57 constituencies of Uttar Pradesh began 7 am on Wednesday under extensive security arrangements by the Election Commission that included 65,000 central para-military personnel.
Among the 861 candidates in the fray are Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav from Gunnaur in Budaun district even though he already contested for the Bhartana seat from Etawah district in the first phase.
Besides the 114 micro-observers who were in position in these constituencies spread across 10 districts, the commission has sent one additional observer for each district.
In addition, 10 senior police officers of the rank of inspector general and deputy inspector general have also been assigned special duty to oversee the security arrangements.
Deputy Election Commissioner Jay P Prakash, who had been keeping an aerial command over the polling during the first two phases on April 7 and 13, would once again hop from constituency to constituency in his helicopter.
Sure enough, the intensified arrangements show up their impact in the smooth polling over the first two hours. "According to reports trickling here since the morning, about nine per cent polling was estimated in most places," a poll official said.
The state's principal home secretary, K Chandramauli, confirmed: "There was no untoward incident reported from any part of the state so far."
As many as 15 million voters will exercise their franchise to elect representatives for 57 assembly constituencies that go to poll during this third phase spread across 10 districts of Bijnore, Moradabad, Jyotiba Phule Nagar, Rampur, Budaun, Barielly, Pilibhit, Shahjahanpur, Farrukhabad and Kannauj.
This phase was going to be the biggest acid test for the ruling Samajwadi Party that had bagged the lion's share by winning 25 of the 57 seats at the 2002 assembly election. It was followed by the Bharataiya Janata Party's 11, the Bahujan Samaj Party's nine and the Congress trailing last with just four. Smaller political outfits and independents won eight seats here.
The prestige of a couple of other important leaders was also at stake during this phase. Prominent among these was Uttar Pradesh Congress president Salman Khurshid whose wife Louise Khurshid was seeking re-election from Kaimganj in Farrukhabad.
Among others in the fray for Wednesday's poll was Azam Khan, the state's urban development and parliamentary affairs minister in the Mulayam cabinet known for his hard talk on Muslim related issues.
Yet another contestant in the spotlight was DP Yadav, the father of Vikas Yadav, an accused in the Nitish Katara murder case. He himself faces several criminal charges and his name spells terror in parts of Bulandshahr.