UP Assembly polls: 16% turnout till 10 am in phase 5

The fifth phase is expected to be a litmus test for the SP-Congress alliance as they had won around 80 per cent of the seats in the region during the 2012 elections

Hardnews Bureau Delhi

An estimated 16 per cent of the total 1.81 crore voters in 51 Assembly constituencies covering 11 districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh cast their votes till 10 am in the fifth phase of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls today. Election Commission officials said that the polling was peaceful and till 9 am, the turnout was 10.78 per cent that rose to around 16 per cent till 10 am.

Sources said that long queues were witnessed at several polling stations and no incidents were reported anywhere, particularly in Indo-Nepal bordering districts of Balrampur, Sidharthnagar and Bahriach. However, a report from Bahriach said that voting was delayed by an hour in at least six booths of the district due to malfunctioning of the electronic voting machines.

Around 2 lakh policemen have been deployed in the region, including around 200 companies of Central forces. Polling is taking place at 18,822 booths, of which 2,351 are said to be extremely sensitive. The voting will continue till 5 pm.

The fifth phase is expected to be a litmus test for the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance as they had won around 80 per cent of the seats in the region during the 2012 elections—the SP had won 37 seats , BSP won 3, BJP claimed 5, Congress won 5 and Peace Party won 2 seats.

Meanwhile, panic-stricken Union ministers are heading towards Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to campaign for the final phase of the UP elections in the temple town. Varanasi and its adjoining areas will go to polls in the seventh and last phase of UP polls on March 8 and the campaigning would end on March 6 evening.

BJP national president Amit Shah is camping in Amethi House while senior ministers are sweating it out in different “nukkad sabhas”. Modi is expected to reach Varanasi on the evening of March 4 and will address an election meeting on the next day. Earlier, the Prime Minister was slated to hold a roadshow in the temple city but it was cancelled.

Dr Kaushal Kishore Mishra, head of political science department at Banaras Hindu University, said: “Modi ji’s prestige is at stake. BJP might get a majority in the entire state but if it does not win this region, it will be treated as Modi’s loss as UP is voting for Modi not BJP.”

In a major setback to the BSP in the state, the Delhi High Court refused to grant parole to gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari to campaign in the elections today. The decision came after the Election Commission moved a petition opposing BSP’s Ansari from campaigning in the ongoing polls.

However, while Mukhtar will continue to stay in Lucknow jail, family members of Ansari, including his wife, are campaigning in Mau from where the politician is contesting. Earlier during scrutiny, nomination of BJP candidate Ashok Singh was rejected from Mau seat where the BSP has fielded Ansari.

The Ansari family is contesting three Assembly seats in Mau-Ghazipur districts on BSP tickets after they were denied tickets by the SP. Ansari's son Abbas, is contesting elections for the first time from Ghosi seat. Mau is scheduled to go to polls on February 4.