Lucknow: Polling began slowly in the first phase of Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections on Wednesday but picked up the pace as the day progressed with 51 per cent of the electorate exercising their franchisee till 4 PM. Rain has played spoilsport in many Assembly segments where voting is taking place.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha said that the percentage was low due to heavy rains in certain areas where polling was being held even though it is a public holiday.
The ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) holds the maximum number of seats - 30 the first phase; Congress and Samajwadi Party are posing stiff challenge to Chief Minister Mayawati and are trying to reap the maximum benefit due to the anti-incumbency factor.
Uttar Pradesh elections have been billed as a battle between Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and BSP supremo and Chief Minister Mayawati. The results are expected to have national ramifications for all the parties involved.
In Basni Assembly seat in Siddharth Nagar district, not a single vote was cast in the first two hours of polling due to heavy rains, official sources said.
While Sitapur registered 5.1 per cent polling in the first two hours, people boycotted polling in Gularia village in Misrikh assembly seat to protest lack of development works.
Minimum vote percentage of 3.5 per cent was registered in Faizabad district, followed by 4 per cent in Bahraich.
Maximum 16 per cent till 10 AM was recorded in Barabanki district followed by 10 per cent in Gonda.
Polling is being held in 10 districts -- Sitapur, Barabanki, Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Bahraich, Shravasti, Balrampur, Gonda, Siddharth Nagar and Basti amidst tight security arrangements, Sinha said.
More than 1.70 lakh electorates - 952.87 lakh male and 70.44 lakh female - are expected to seal the fate of 862 candidates.
The candidates include 796 men, 65 women and one eunuch. Maximum 26 candidates are in fray for Barabanki seat, whereas Mehmoodabad has minimum number of 8 candidates.
Stakes are high for the BSP, Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the no holds barred fight for the 403 assembly seats.
The first phase 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.
Gonda MP Beni Prasad Verma'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.
Other heavyweights include six-time BJP MLA and former state minister Laloo Singh who is contesting from Ayodhya while Congress MP Jagdambika Pal's son Abhishek Pal is in the fray from Basti Sadar. Senior SP leader and former minister Waqar Ahmed Shah is contesting from Behraich.
(With Additional Inputs from PTI)