As the curtains came down on campaigning for the final phase of Uttar Pradesh polls, political parties in the fray appeared to have left no stone unturned in ensuring that their respective party wins the maximum number seats in the 403-seat assembly. The nearly month-long polling exercise in the state will culminate on March 8 as over seven eastren districts, including Varanasi, will decide the fate of 40 assembly segments. The last few days saw fierce competition between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Samajwadi Party-Congress combine as both parties tried to outdo each other. In a show of strength, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held two massive roadshows in his Lok Sabha Constituency and also addressed two rallies. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav appeared to match the crowds drawn by the prime minister as they jointly addressed a roadshow on the same day Modi arrived in Varanasi. 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.
It was a case of many firsts for the prime minister as he visited Kal Bhairav mandir and camped in the temple town for three-long days. A bevy of BJP leaders and Cabinet Ministers also descended on Varanasi to ensure the success of party’s success. Leading BJP’s campaign from the front, Modi mocked Akhilesh and Rahul as “delicate” people incapable of taking hard decisions while pitching himself as a grassroots leader who can bring development to the ‘Purvanchal’ region and the state.
Modi said the SP and the BSP are two sides of the same coin — the former being A (Akhilesh) SP and the latter B(Bahujan) SP. Taking potshots at the Congress over its run of losses in the recent polls, he said one day research would have be done to find out if it ever existed, as it is “disappearing from everywhere.”
During his election rally in Sonbhadra towards the end of the campaign, Akhilesh ridiculed Modi’s roadshows saying these were bound to fail like the earlier ones and would lead the PM “somewhere else.” “A roadshow was held…it failed. He is doing one more…it too will fail and then again a roadshow will be held…Now he will go somewhere else by doing his roadshow,” he said at a rally here.
Rahul, in his address, alleged that Modi has waived loans worth Rs 1.40 lakh crore owed by 50 rich people but refused to write off Rs 50,000 crore due of poor farmers. At her rally, Mayawati claimed the people at Modi’s roadshow were “mere spectators” brought from neighbouring states like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
She said the joint roadshow by Akhilesh and Rahul Gandhi reflected they had “reconciled to defeat” and added that prayers being offered at temples and shrines “will be of no avail”. Modi today wrapped up his hectic campaign with a rally at Rohaniya, where he made an impassioned plea to voters to defeat SP-Congress combine and BSP, blaming these parties for the plight of Uttar Pradesh. Akhilesh, meanwhile lined up 13 rallies on the last day of campaigning.
The 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 in this phase. Tight security has been put in place in these districts. The counting of votes polled in all the seven phases of the Assembly polls will be taken up on March 11. A total of 1.41 crore voters, including 64.76 lakh women, will exercise their franchise in the last phase. 14,458 polling booths have been set up in this phase. In the 2012 state Assembly polls, out of these 40 seats, 23 went to SP, 5 to BSP, 4 to BJP, 3 to Congress and 5 to
The seven districts going to polls in this phase are Ghazipur, Varanasi, Jaunpur, Chandauli, Mirzapur, Bhadoi and Sonebhadra.
In all, 535 candidates, including 40 (BSP), 32 (BJP), 31 (SP), 9 (Congress), 21 (RLD) and 5 (NCP) are in the fray in this phase.
While the maximum number of candidates (24) are from the Varanasi Cant seat, the minimum number of candidates (six) are contesting from Kerakat (SC).
with PTI inputs