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Uttar Pradesh ready for second phase of polls

The scene is set for the second round of UP's seven phased assembly elections when 16.4 million voters will exercise their right to franchise.

india Updated: Apr 12, 2007 11:49 IST

The scene is set for the second round of Uttar Pradesh's seven phased assembly elections on Friday, when 16.4 million voters will exercise their right to franchise in 58 assembly constituencies spread across 10 districts.

As many as 881 candidates are in the fray for the second phase that focuses on western Uttar Pradesh, including areas bordering the national capital. Only 294 of these belong to recognised parties while the rest are independents. Besides, only 50 women are in the fray in this region, known for its feudal mindset.

In all, 18,400 electronic voting machines (EVMs) are being put in place at the 15,887 polling booths set up across the region - Noida, Ghaziabad, Meerut, Aligarh, Mathura, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Bulandshahr and Hathras.

Though all prominent parties, including the ruling Samajwadi Party and the Congress are in the fray, this phase will see an essentially triangular contest between the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).

It may prove to be a litmus test for two prominent politicians, Ajit Singh and Kalyan Singh, who have traditionally held sway over a large chunk of the electorate in major parts of western Uttar Pradesh.

While Ajit Singh remains the sole campaigner for his regional outfit RLD, Kalyan Singh is the most prominent BJP face to woo votes for the nationalist Hindu party in the region. Ajit Singh represents Baghpat in the Lok Sabha and Kalyan Singh Bulandshahr.

Significantly, both have chosen to personally remain out of the fray on the plea that they did not want to get bogged down with their own constituencies and instead keep themselves free to campaign for their party nominees.

Kalyan Singh has, however, fielded both his son and daughter-in-law from two different constituencies in his hometown Aligarh.

Polling in these 58 seats could be even more crucial for the BSP that had bagged the highest number of seats (15) in this area during the last elections in 2002. RLD had won 11 seats, followed by BJP (10), Samajwadi Party (8) and Congress (4).

Kalyan Singh, who had then turned BJP rebel to float his own Rashtriya Kranti Dal (RKD), had managed to grab three seats solely on the basis of his personal influence while the remaining five seats went to independents.

Apart from Kalyan Singh's return to the BJP fold, the party's sweep in Delhi's civic polls is likely to have an impact on the seats in the bordering constituencies of Noida and Ghaziabad.

Besides the dominating caste factor that sharply divides society in Uttar Pradesh, farmer-related issues are also likely to influence voters in this agriculturally rich area, widely known as the granary of the state.

Divisions along communal lines will also play a part in areas like Meerut, Aligarh and Saharanpur with the BJP stoking Hindu sentiments and leading Islamic seminaries trying to use their overriding influence on the large Muslim population.

Bound to play heavily on the mind of the electorate, particularly in Noida, is the infamous Nithari serial killings, where at least 20 women and children were sexually abused and killed.

The mysterious disappearance and murder of college lecturer Kavita Chaudhary and the subsequent sex and sleaze scandal, allegedly involving the names of certain RLD leaders, will also remain a factor in Meerut and Bulandshahr.

After ensuring the state's first successful first "booth-capturing free" first phase poll last week, state Chief Election Officer Anuj Kumar Bishnoi said: "We are determined to ensure a free and fair round of polls once again."

The elections conclude on May 8.

First Published: Apr 12, 2007 11:42 IST