Stage set for first phase of UP Assembly polls

Stage set for first phase of UP Assembly polls

Polling for the first phase of the high voltage Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections for 55 seats in 10 districts would be held tomorrow that will decide the fate of two ministers, 31 MLAs and 15 former ministers.

Indian policemen leave for their assigned polling stations a day ahead of the polling, in Ayodhya, India, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. The battle of ballot in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous and politically crucial state starts Wednesday, when 55 assembly constituencies go to polls in the first phase. A total of 17 million people are eligible to vote in this round. AP

More than 1.70 lakh electorate would seal the fate of 862 candidates in the polling to be held in Sitapur, Barabanki, Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Bahraich, Shravasti, Balrampur, Gonda, Siddharth Nagar and Basti amidst tight security.

Stakes are high for ruling BSP, Congress, SP and the BJP in the no holds barred fight for the 403 assembly seats. Tomorrow's polling would decide the future of cabinet minister Lalji Verma, minister of state Sangram Singh Verma, 31 sitting MLAs, 15 former ministers and relatives of several MPs including Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma.

It would be a litmus test for Congress leaders including Beni Prasad Verma and National Commission for Scheduled Caste Chairman PL Punia as both of them represent the areas going to the polls.

While Gonda MP Beni's prestige would be at stake not only in seven assembly constituencies of his parliamentary area but also in Barabanki with his son Rakesh Verma contesting from Dariyabad seat there. Barabanki MP, PL Punia's Dalit card and influence in the area would also be under keen observation in six constituencies of his area
Both Verma, known for his say in Kurmi vote bank and Punia, Dalit face of Congress would have the herculean task of ensuring maximum number of seats for the Congress, which had secured only three of the 55 seats in 2007 assembly polls.

For Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which had secured maximum of 30 seats out of 55 seats in the 2007 assembly polls, it would be a do or die situation as betterment of performance of rivals would botch political prospects of the party, which was mired in controversies due to corruption cases.

Samajwadi Party is also under pressure to perform in the area to increase its tally from 18 seats in the 2007 assembly polls. The party's performance in the region could help it in catapulting itself to power, SP leaders feel.

As far as BJP, which talks of "Ramrajya", is concerned despite Faizabad and Ayodhya falling in this phase, the party's performance has not been upto the mark in past elections.

In 2007, BJP had succeeded in getting victory in four seats only. This time party leaders Rajnath Singh and Kalraj Mishra had taken out yatras, which culminated in Ayodhya with a rally to muster support for the party but it had not generated much enthusiasm among voters especially post Babu Singh Kushwaha episode.

Going by the 2007 record on these seats, BSP had won 30 seats while SP secured 18, BJP four and Congress a meagre three seats only. As far as ticket distribution is concerned in Congress , Verma had ruled the roost and succeeded in ensuring tickets to his loyalists and also turncoats from Samajwadi Party.

The party is banking on charisma of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who had covered various constituencies in Bahraich, Gonda, Barabanki, Sitapur, Basti districts during his visits and held a series of public meetings.

Also, Congress leader and MP Jagdambika Pal, whose son Abhishek Pal is contesting from Basti Sadar seat has also been camping in his constituency to ensure victory of his son--a first timer in political battle.

In the first phase, 6855 polling stations have been identified as critical and to ensure free and fair elections more than two lakh jawans, including of state police and central forces, have been deployed.

Tight vigil would be maintained at borders of districts where polling would be held and special arrangements have been made to check intimidation of voters.Outsiders would not be allowed in districts going to poll for which searches were being carried out at hotels and other places.

Command of the poll process would be in the hand of central forces which would be assisted by state police. Prominent candidates in this phase include former Vidhan Sabha speaker Mata Prasad Pandey, former PWD Minister Arvind Singh Gope, former minister Waqar Ahmad Shah, Mitrasen Yadav, Abhay Singh of Samajwadi Party,
parliamentary Affairs minister Lalji Verma from BSP, Ammar Rizvi, Rakesh Verma (Beni's son), Abhishek Pal of Congress and former minister in BSP government Daddan Mishra from BJP.