India Politics
Curtains set to fall on Uttar Pradesh elections
May 7, 2007 - 3:57:10 PM

Gorakhpur, May 7 - Polling for India's longest election ends Tuesday to pick a new government in the country's most populous state Uttar Pradesh, the verdict tipped to cast a shadow on national politics.

In the final leg of seven-phased polling, 17.8 million voters will be eligible to exercise their franchise to pick 59 legislators from among 934 contestants in the nine districts of Faizabad, Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Azamgarh, Kushinagar, Deoria, Mau, Ballia and Ambedkar Nagar.

Considering the vastness of the area, spread across the eastern parts of the state bordering Nepal and Bihar, the number of polling stations too is far more than in the earlier six phases that began April 7.

According to the Election Commission, there will be 16,804 polling stations with 19,400 electronic voting machines.

The staggered elections - the longest in India's electoral history - is widely expected to produce another hung 403-seat assembly in Uttar Pradesh but this time putting the Bahujan Samaj Party - on the top.

If that happens, it would be a major milestone for a party that was set up only in 1984.

BSP leader and three times chief minister Mayawati has already declared that when the government is formed, she would be ordering the arrest of present Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and his Man Friday Amar Singh.

The Congress could get caught in a BSP-Samajwadi tussle. The Left, which props up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is close to the Samajwadi Party.

But the BSP would need the support of others to take power. Either the ruling Samajwadi Party or the Bharatiya Janata Party - is expected to finish number two, followed by the Congress in the fourth place.

The Samajwadi Party will do everything possible to prevent Mayawati from becoming the chief minister while the BJP is not too keen to play second fiddle to BSP any more.

The Samajwadi Party had in the last assembly election in 2002 bagged 21 of the 59 seats. The BSP claimed 17 seats, BJP 11 and Congress four seats. Independents and smaller outfits took the rest.

Top political leaders of the parties pumped in all their energies into the campaign. Prominent leaders of BJP, BSP as well as the Congress camped here to make it convenient for them to spin around the poll arena.

Among the BJP bigwigs burning the midnight oil in Gorakhpur were former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani, former party president Murli Manohar Joshi, former chief minister Kalyan Singh, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and national president Raj Nath Singh.

Though Mayawati was the lone campaigner for BSP, Mulayam Singh Yadav pressed Bollywood symbols Jaya Bachchan and Jaya Prada into campaigning besides a host of his cabinet colleagues.

For the first time, the Congress too pushed its own Bollywood man Govinda to impress voters with his antics in a largely rural belt where he remains a rage with both the young and the middle-aged.

Besides, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi as well as her son Rahul have been undertaking hectic campaign in large parts. But most people that the Congress is highly unlikely to make a major dent.

According to a study by Election Watch, an NGO headed by former state director general of police I.C. Dwivedi, as many as 162 of the 934 contestants face criminal charges.

Of these 87 belong to major political parties. The Samajwadi Party tops the list with 32 tainted candidates, followed by 19 of the BJP-Apna Dal combine, BSP's 20 and Congress' 16.

Considering the vulnerability of the areas, the Election Commission has decided to detail special additional observers in five of the 59 constituencies.

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