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53 per cent voting in Uttar Pradesh, Pilibhit beats records

About 53 per cent voting was registered in the fifth and final phase of LS elections in UP with Pilibhit, where the BJP's controversial leader Varun Gandhi is contesting, breaking all past records with a 64.5 per cent turnout.

india Updated: May 13, 2009 21:58 IST

About 53 per cent voting was registered in the fifth and final phase of Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh with Pilibhit, where the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) controversial leader Varun Gandhi is contesting, breaking all past records with a 64.5 per cent turnout.

The polling figure in Pilibhit was also the highest in this state this time, where about 1.93 crore voters were eligible to exerise their franchise on Wednesday. Polling in the four previous phases in the state stood between 43 per cent and 48 per cent.

As many as 203 candidates including 15 women were in the fray for the 14 seats - Rampur, Pilibhit, Badaun, Moradabad, Dharhaura, Bijnore, Bareilly, Aonla, Shahjahanpur, Kheri, Sambhal, Amroha, Nagina and Saharanpur - spread across as many districts, falling in western Uttar Pradesh and covering a large part of the agriculturally rich Terai belt too.

Prominent amog the candidate were filmstar turned politician Jaya Prada (Samajwadi Party), cricketer turned politician Mohammed Azharuddin (Congress), mafia don turned politician DP Yadav, journalist turned politician Shahid Siddiqui and industrialist Saleem Sherwani, besides former central minister Maneka Gandhi (BJP), who vacated her Pilibhit seat for son Varun Gandhi and contested from neighbouring Aonla.

Varun Gandhi had courted controversy as he allegedly targeted the minority community in two election rallies in March, leading to his arrest and incarceration.

Pilibhit was followed by Saharanpur that recorded 60.8 per cent voting.

Rampur, from where Jaya Prada is seeking re-election, recorded a turnout of about 54 per cent. The constituency remained in news throughout the campaign with rebel SP leader Azam Khan and party leader Amar Singh trading charges.

Aonla, where Maneka Gandhi was contesting against Kunwar Sarvraj Singh of the state's ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), recorded the lowest turnout in the state Wednesday at 47 per cent.

Polling began at 7 am at each of the 20,807 polling stations. Except for sporadic teething troubles with electronic voting machines (EVMs) at a few places, polling went off smoothly at almost all places, election officials confirmed.

No untoward incident was reported from any part of the state.

A brief heated exchange was reported between Varun Gandhi and polling officials in Pilibhit.

"Angered over rumours about partisan attitude of some poll officials, Varun Gandhi led a band of his supporters to a polling station in Bisalpur where he warned the officials to behave or face the music," an official told IANS over telephone from Pilibhit.

"However, the matter was soon sorted out without causing any kind of disruption in the polling," he added.

In Rampur, Jaya Prada was keeping her fingers crossed.

"I am fighting against forces not only from outside the party but also from within," she told reporters shortly after she took off for the day with a puja at the hotel where she was camping.

Her key opponent Begum Noor Bano of the Congress looked more at ease and quite confident of her win - thanks to the virtually open support extended by SP detractor Azam Khan.

Azharuddin, a first-timer in polls, appeared less than fully confident.

"I have been working here (in Moradabad) for the past month and a half and people know that I am capable of giving them what they have not got in the past 20 years in the name of development," he said.

However, the constituency saw a relatively lower turnout of 50.4 per cent.

In Dharhaura, where the turnout was 55 per cent, Congress nominee Jitin Prasada was hoping to sail through even though his family bastion Shahjahanpur had been affected due to the delimitation exercise, forcing him to choose a new constituency.

Polling of about 48 percent was recorded in Badaun, where the Congress' Saleem Sherwani was locked in a straight contest with SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav's nephew Dharmendra Yadav.

Sherwani was compelled to switch sides because Mulayam Singh Yadav chose to field his nephew even though Sherwani had won five consecutive terms from the constituency.

First Published: May 13, 2009 21:55 IST