The slide of polling percentage in Uttar Pradesh has been arrested. In fact, it showed a marked upswing in the fifth phase of assembly polls — 59.2% from the 57.2% of the fourth phase.
“There has been a 12% increase in turnout this time in the districts that went to polls today, as compared to the 2007 assembly elections,” said chief electoral officer Umesh Sinha in Lucknow.
The Election Commission takes a bow for the phenomenon, attributing it to creation of increased awareness among voters. But it is also a fact that this phase of the polls had taken place in an area, part of which is a stronghold of the opposition Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bundelkhand, where Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi had campaigned extensively.
In Central Uttar Pradesh, the area from Kanpur Dehat to Firozabad is known as the Yadav belt, where Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav puts his prestige at stake.
The Congress is banking on good performance in five districts of Bundelkhand — Jalaun, Jhansi, Lalitpur, Hamirpur and Mahoba. Likewise, the prestige of BJP star campaigner Uma Bharati is also at stake, because she was deployed from neighbouring Madhya Pradesh with the hope of attracting the Lodh community, which has a major presence in the Bundelkhand region.
“We have broken the polling record,” said Jitendra Tiwari, a faculty member of Bundelkhand University, as the Election Commission announced the highest percentage of voting from Lalitpur — 70.58%.
Indeed, reports from Buldelkhand indicated that the flood of votes was an effort to wash away the misery of the drought years with a change in governance. Hundreds of voters – old and young, men and women, thronged the polling booths since early morning, be it in the rural areas of Garautha or urban hub Jhansi. Naturally, claims and counter claims abounded over the high percentage of voting in this round.
While Samajwadi Party spokesman Rajendra Chaudhury said it had gone in the party’s favour, the BJP and the Congress made similar claims.