After the high-decibel campaigning that ended on Monday evening, voting will take place in 67 constituencies of western Uttar Pradesh figuring in the second of the seven-phase assembly elections in the state on Wednesday. A total of 720 candidates are in the fray as voting will be held across 11 districts – Saharanpur, Bijnor, Moradabad, Sambhal, Rampur, Bareilly, Amroha, Pilibhit, Kheri, Shahjahanpur and Badaun.
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The second phase is considered as crucial for Samajwadi Party as stakes in this round are the highest for the ruling Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party. Out of the 67 seats, SP had won 34 in the previous assembly elections, while BSP, BJP, Congress and others won 18, 10, 3 and 2 respectively.
Spearheading the SP-Congress alliance, Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi over demonetisation drive, alleging that the decision to demonetise higher denomination of notes had caused immense hardship to people, especially those living in the rural areas. In addition, the alliance projected the development aspect of the ruling government and also tried to woo Muslim voters by portraying themselves as the only political force to stop the BJP.
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On the other hand, BJP launched a blistering attack on the SP-Congress alliance, saying Rahul ran a campaign against the SP government and wondered what change of heart made them join hands together. Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah also attacked Chief Minister Akhilesh for deteriorating law and order in the state, accusing the ruling party leaders of sheltering and nursing criminals. Playing the pro-poor and pro-farmers card, BJP promised to waive loans of small and marginal farmers, including clearing the dues of sugarcane growers within 14 days of coming to power.
The saffron party, which is hoping to improve its tally following its thumping performance in the state in the 2014 General Election, urged the electorate to give them a chance to save the state from the ‘clutches of troublemakers.’ However, the alliance between the Congress and SP, especially the political camaraderie between the two young scions, has added a new dimension to the contest.
Mayawati, considered by many as the dark horse of this election, severely censured the Akhilesh-led government, accusing it of letting loose a “reign of terror” in the state with hooligans committing “utmost atrocities” against women. She also criticised the Modi government over “interfering” with the personal law of Muslims and also for giving out calls to end reservations for backward communities in job. She urged the people not to waste their votes by backing the SP-Congress alliance.
The remaining five phases of polling will be held on February 19, 23, 27 and on March 4 and 8 with counting of votes to be taken up on March 11.
With inputs from PTI