Polling in 40 Uttar Pradesh Assembly seats spread across seven districts in the seventh and final phase started on Wednesday with all eyes on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi. Prominent candidates who are in fray include former Cabinet minister Om Prakash, Parasnath Yadav, Ajay Rai, former MP Dhananjay Singh, Sigbatullah Ansari brother of Mukhtar Ansari and Seema Singh wife of jailed mafia Munna Bajrangi.
A total of 1.41 crore voters, including 64.76 lakh women, are eligible to exercise their franchise in 14,458 polling booths and 8,682 polling centres to decide fate of 585 candidates, including 51 women. Three Naxal-affected districts of Sonbhadra, Mirzapur and Chandauli, along with the five Assembly segments under Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency, will be in prime focus.
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Ghazipur, Jaunpur and Bhadoi are the other districts where polling is going on in this phase. Tight security has been put in place in these seven districts. Polling will be held between 7 AM to 5 PM in all constituencies, except the Naxal-hit Duddhi, Robertsganj and Chakia seats, where polling will end at 4 PM. Counting of votes polled in all the seven phases of the Assembly polls will be taken up on March 11.
The BJP is contesting 32 seats and its allies – the Apana Dal and the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party – are contesting on 4 seats each. The BSP has fielded its nominees for all seats. While the SP is contesting 31 seats, its ally the Congress is in race for the remaining seats. In the 2012 state Assembly polls, out of these 40 seats, 23 went to the SP, 5 to the BSP, 4 to the BJP, 3 to the Congress and 5 to others.
In all, 535 candidates, including BSP (40), BJP (32), SP (31), Cong (9), RLD 21, and NCP (5) are in the fray. While the maximum number of 24 candidates are from Varanasi Cantt seat, the minimum number of 6 candidates are contesting from Kerakat (SC). The turnout on these seats in 2012 was 57.92 per cent in 2012 Assembly polls.