Uttar Pradesh put up a stellar show in the first phase of the assembly elections on Wednesday, setting the tone with a record 62% turnout that overcame the sluggish pace seen during the rainy and cold morning and picked up gradually.
|What's more, polling for the 55 constituencies in the first of the seven-phase elections for the 403-member assembly in the country's most populous and politically significant state was violence-free - a first.
"It's for the first time that the state secured first division (in polling). The turnout would have easily gone up to 70% but for the morning rains," said UP chief electoral officer Umesh Sinha. The record numbers could spell trouble for chief minister Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), neutralising the traditionally high Dalit voter turnout.
The fierce four-cornered contest between the BSP, Samajwadi Party, BJP and the Congress is expected to largely follow the usual caste lines. But voting by first-timers, many of whom are not driven much by such considerations, is likely to have an effect.
Muslims too turned up in large numbers.
Heavy rains in almost all the constituencies kept most of the 17 million voters indoors, but polling surged later, sealing the fate of 862 candidates across 10 districts - Sitapur, Barabanki, Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Bahraich, Shrawasti, Balrampur, Gonda, Sidharthnagar and Basti.
Sinha said there was enthusiasm among the voters.
The peaceful polling allowed central paramilitary troops a breather.