Campaigning ends for final leg of polls in UP, Manipur

Campaigning ends for final leg of polls in UP, Manipur

Campaigning ends for final leg of polls in UP, Manipur

Microphones fell silent and the dust from the over two month-long electioneering settled as parties wrapped up their campaign for the final phases of polls in Uttar Pradesh and Manipur today. The highlight of the acrimonious campaign for the March 8 polls for 40 seats in eastern Uttar Pradesh was the show of strength by the BJP, the SP-Congress combine and the BSP in PM Narendra Modi's Varanasi constituency where he camped for three days.

Manipur will see polling in 22 seats across five districts in its second and final phase, where the fate of almost all the big names in the north east state's politics -- including Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, Deputy CM Gaikhangam and human rights activist-turned-politician Irom Chanu Sharmila -- will be decided. In Uttar Pradesh, the Prime Minister visited temples, held a roadshow and attended a number of public events in the holy city along with several rallies in the region, in the final push by the BJP to reach out to voters ahead of the seventh and last phase.

Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi also matched it with their own campaign blitz in the region. Joined by Akhilesh's wife Dimple, the two leaders held a roadshow, hours after Modi arrived in the city and paid obeisance at the Kashi Vishwanath and Kal Bhairav temples with much fanfare. BSP chief Mayawati, who is seeking a fifth term as Chief Minister, also addressed a rally in Rohaniya, around 20 km from Varanasi the same day.

A galaxy of BJP veterans and Union ministers also made a beeline to Varanasi towards the fag end of electioneering, making the poll atmosphere highly charged. The poll in Manipur this time is billed as a major test for the 15-year-old Congress regime which is facing a stiff challenge from the BJP. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who has not been keeping well, did not campaign in the state. The task of spearheading the Congress campaign was left to party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who addressed a rally in Imphal on February 28.

BJP held rallies by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 25 and by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on February 19 in Imphal. Sharmila, who fasted for 16 years for repealing the AFSPA from the state, is in the election fray for the first time and is pitted against Ibobi Singh himself in Thoubal constituency. The high-decibel campaign in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa was set rolling after the EC announced polling dates on January 4.

In Punjab and Goa polling was held on February 5, while Uttarakhand went to polls on February 15. In Uttar Pradesh polling was announced in seven phases between February 11 and March 8. The EC announced a two-phase exercise for Manipur, the first of which was on March 4.

After the final phase of the polling on March 8, all eyes will be riveted on March 11 when results of elections in all five states, dubbed as a litmus test for the Narendra Modi government, will be declared.