India Politics
Uttar Pradesh enters last phase of elections
May 7, 2007 - 12:01:28 PM

Gorakhpur -, May 7 - This one is for the record books - 17.8 million voters exercise their franchise Tuesday in what is not only the largest round of the seven-phase Uttar Pradesh polls but an end to the longest election ever held in the country.

At more than eight million voters, round seven would also feature the highest number of women electors.

As many as 934 contestants are in the fray for 59 assembly constituencies that go to the polls across the nine districts of Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Kushinagar, Deoria, Mau, Azamgarh and Ballia.

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.

'In all there are 16,804 polling stations with 19,400 electronic voting machines,' one officer said.

The Samajwadi Party led the tally at the last assembly election in 2002 when it bagged 21 of the 59 seats. It was followed by Bahujan Samaj Party - with 17 seats, Bharatiya Janata Party's - with 11 and Congress with four seats. The remaining six seats were won by smaller political outfits and independents.

Top political leaders of the parties pumped in all their energies into the campaign. Prominent leaders of BJP, BSP as well as the Congress were camping in Gorakhpur 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, of course, BJP national president Raj Nath Singh.

Though BSP chief Mayawati was the lone campaigner for her party, Samajwadi Party president and Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav got in his permanent team from Bollywood, including Jaya Bachchan and Jaya Prada, as well as his Man Friday Amar Singh 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 also been undertaking hectic campaign in large parts.

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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