Feb 11, 2012 at 04:53pm IST

UP polls: 46 per cent turnout till 3 pm

Lucknow: The polling in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections picked up after a dull start on Saturday with 46 per cent of nearly two crore electorate exercising their franchise till 3 pm.

The fate of 1099 candidates, including 31 sitting MLAs and 24 former ministers and at stake in the second phase of polling on 59 of the 403 assembly seats.

Once a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bastion, it is the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) that has the highest number of MLAs in this region.

However, Chief Minister Mayawati does face a stiff challenge in defending 30 seats that it won in the 2007 elections.

Saturday's constituencies are spread across nine districts – Azamgarh, Gorakhpur, Ballia, Ghazipur, Maharajganj, Deoria, Mau, Sant Kabir Nagar and Kushinagar. Most of them are located along the Bihar border.

Stray incidents of violence were reported in some districts.

In Dakshin Tola area in Mau district, police used force when a large number of people gathered outside a polling station indulged in unruly behaviour. Unconfirmed reports said six persons were injured in the firing.

A high 62 per cent voted on February 8, the first day of the crucial battle for Uttar Pradesh involving primarily four actors – the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress.

Saturday is witnessing 20,426 polling stations and some 20,800 electronic voting machines (EVM).

Informed sources said over 120,000 officials, including 55,000 paramilitary forces and 10,000 Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel, have been deployed.

Meanwhile, campaigning for the third phase continues across UP and all eyes would be in Amethi where the Gandhi siblings are likely to address crowds together. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is most likely to join sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at a rally. He is also scheduled to address rallies in Allahabad and Varanasi.

Meanwhile, BJP's star campaigner Uma Bharti will be meeting her supporters in Mahoba on Saturday. Also, other leaders like Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Rajnath Singh and Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be campaigning across several areas that vote in phase 3.

(With Additional Inputs from PTI)