Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati poses with her voter identity card and ink-marked finger after casting her vote in Lucknow. AFP Photo
A very brisk 39% polling in the first six hours -- the highest so far -- was reported on Thursday from most of the 49 assembly constituencies that voted in the fifth round of the seven-phased Uttar Pradesh elections, including areas considered the state's badlands.
There was no report of any untoward incident so far.
"Polling began at 7am and is going on very smoothly. Till 1pm the turnout became 39%, the highest in the corresponding period in all the phases so far," chief electoral officer Umesh Sinha told IANS.
An electorate numbering 15,654,936 (men 8,653,345, women 7,001,279 and others 312) will seal the fate of 829 candidates, including 87 women candidates.
The political parties contesting in this phase are Bahujan Samaj Party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Samajwadi Party (SP) and others.
Apart from Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav's home Etawah, other districts to witness the poll Thursday are Mainpuri, Firozabad, Etah, Auraiya, Rama Bai Nagar, Kanshi Ram Nagar, Kanpur, Jhansi, Hamirpur, Lalitpur, Mahoba and Jalaun.
This belt is an acid test for Mulayam, who is believed to command a lot of influence over both the Yadav and other backward classes in these parts.
Likewise, the prestige of BJP star campaigner Uma Bharti is also at stake because she specially came from neighbouring Madhya Pradesh in the hope of attracting the Lodhi backward caste community, which has a major presence in large parts of Bundelkhand region.
While Bharti is herself in the fray from Charkhari in Hamirpur district, Mulayam's younger brother Shivpal Yadav is contesting from the family bastion, Jaswant Nagar in Etawah.
Extremely heavy police deployments have been made for this phase, which covers a large part of central Uttar Pradesh, better known as the state's badlands.
While Sinha was tightlipped about the numbers, sources confirmed that more than 800 companies of central paramilitary and state armed police were in place to ensure a smooth, free and fair poll in the otherwise "crime and violence-prone" region.
"Every polling booth has at least two central paramilitary personnel, two state armed cops plus four homeguards," said a top police official.