Over 1.71 crore voters will exercise their franchise; 862 are in fray

The Bahujan Samaj Party-led Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh will undergo the first litmus test as over 1.71 crore voters exercise their franchise in the first phase of the Assembly elections, covering 55 seats, on Wednesday.

The constituencies are located in the districts of Barabanki, Sitapur, Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Bahraich, Shrawasti, Balrampur, Gonda, Siddhartnagar and Basti.

The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements for the smooth conduct of the polls in the State that has a maximum number of Assembly segments (total 403).

There are 862 candidates, including 65 women, in the fray. The candidates in this phase include two Ministers, 31 MLAs and 15 former ministers.

Of the voters, 78.24 lakh are women and the Commission has set up 18,108 polling stations spread over the 10 districts. As many as 72,000 polling personnel will be on duty.

The BSP and the BJP have their nominees in all the constituencies and the Congress in 54 segments.

Sources in the Commission said that about two lakh police personnel, including 680 companies of the paramilitary forces, would be on poll duty, considering the sensitivity of the State from the law and order angle.

Since some constituencies have international border with Nepal — Bahriach, Shrawasi, Balrampur and Siddharnathnagar districts — the borders have been sealed.

Muslim voters will have a say in at least 26 seats. Of the 55 seats, the BSP at present holds 30 seats, the Samajwadi Party 18, the BJP four and the Congress three seats.

Tight security

Atiq Khan reports from Lucknow:

In Lucknow, Chief Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha said security would be at its maximum to ensure free and fair polling.

He told journalists that 2,123 polling stations were declared sensitive and 3,423 hypersensitive. Liquor and other intoxicants were banned in the polling areas.

Meeting of observers

Meanwhile, a meeting of observers and district and police officials of the constituencies that go to the polls in the fourth and fifth phases on February 19 and 23 was held in Lucknow.

The meeting was presided by Mr. Sinha and attended by two Central observers appointed by the Commission — Praveen Kumar, CEO of Tamil Nadu, and Sudhir Rakesh, CEO of Bihar.

Mr. Sinha said the meeting reviewed the poll preparedness and other issues. The officials were told that security deployment should be effective, with special emphasis on vulnerability mapping.