Polling in the last round on March 3 will be held in 60 constituencies

Now, only 48 hours remain for the month-long Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls to end before the aspirants, hopefuls, leaders and political parties set their sights on the ‘grand finale' on March 6 when the results will be announced.

Campaigning for the seventh and last phase of the Assembly elections came to an end on Thursday, giving the star campaigners the much-needed respite from hectic electioneering lasting over a month as they criss-crossed all corners of the State. Polling in the last round on March 3 will be held in 60 constituencies distributed in 10 districts of Rohilkhand and Terai regions of the State.

Bahujan Samaj Party and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati campaigned non-stop from February 1 to 29, addressing two meetings daily. Ditto for Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh and his son, Akhilesh Yadav, who at times addressed two to four poll meetings, and BJP president Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh, Uma Bharti and Sushma Swaraj. Congress general secretary, Rahul Gandhi spent 48 days in U.P. addressing meetings and conducting road shows.

Elections in the seventh phase were originally scheduled to be held in the first round on February 4, but were shifted on account of the festival of Barawafat (Id Miladun Nabi).

A significant feature of polling in this round from the point of view of the outcome was the voting trend of the Muslim voters who constitute a fairly large chunk of the electorate in the 60 constituencies. The region also has a big concentration of the Kurmis (with the surname of Gangwar, particularly in Bareilly and Pilibhit districts), the Sainis (OBCs), Brahmins and Sikhs, who are mostly found in Lakhimpur Kheri, Shahjahanpur and Pilibhit districts.

Key contest in Rampur

While the mainstream parties, and even the smaller ones, have placed their bets on their candidates, a key contest awaits in Rampur, where the Samajwadi Party's ‘Muslim face,' Mohammad Azam Khan has not only to overcome the challenge thrown up by the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party but also to contend with the Rashtriya Lok Manch. The RLM is powered by the Amar Singh-Jaya Prada duo and it is an open secret that there is no love lost between Ms. Jaya Prada and Mr. Khan. Much water has flown down the Kosi river (the river's level is higher than that of Rampur town), since Mr. Khan was elected MLA for the sixth time in 2007.

Swar Tanda in Rampur district is poised to witness the scion of the Rampur royal family, Kazim Ali Khan alias Naved Mian try to retain the seat, this time as a Congress candidate and bolstered by the presence of his mother and former MP, Begum Noor Bano.

Another key contest will be in Sahaswan in Budaun district, where alleged mafia don, DP (Dharampal ) Yadav , is contesting as a Rashtriya Parivartan Dal candidate. He tried to enter the Samajwadi Party but was snubbed by Akhilesh Yadav. The electoral battle in Bareilly Cantonment has become interesting following the switch over by the four-time BJP MLA from Bareilly City, Rajesh Agarwal with the city Mayor, Supriya Aron in the battle field as the Congress candidate. Ms. Aron is the wife of Bareilly MP, Praveen Singh Aron. Mr. Rahul Gandhi conducted a road show in Bareilly Cantt, and Bareilly City on Tuesday to boost the party's prospects.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) too has a stake in Saturday's elections, what with BJP MP, Maneka Gandhi's cousin, V.M. Singh contesting from Barkhera in Pilibhit district and Palia Assembly constituency in Kheri district. A crusader for the sugarcane farmers' rights, Mr. Singh was named the Congress candidate from Barkhera, but quit the party and joined the TMC.

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