Braving inclement weather, people come out in large numbers

With a record 62 per cent polling in the first phase of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections on Wednesday, the biggest winners have been the voters, who braved the inclement weather to cast their votes.

It had been raining heavily since Tuesday night in these areas, but the voters came out in large numbers to participate in the biggest festival of democracy.

Sporting umbrellas, the people made known their enthusiasm to exercise their franchise.

Elections on Wednesday were held in 55 Assembly constituencies in 10 districts.

Chief Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha told reporters in Lucknow that the voter turnout was up by 16 per cent from 46 per cent in the 55 assembly constituencies in the 2007 polls.

Once the rain stopped around 8 a.m., people came out in droves and made a beeline to the booths in about a dozen constituencies in the three districts of Barabanki, Faizabad and Ambedkar Nagar visited by The Hindu. Polling officials were optimistic about a handsome turnout.

S.C. Sharma, the Sector Magistrate in charge of 26 booths in the Dariyabad Assembly constituency in Barabanki district, said the response from the people was excellent.

At the Barhela Narainpur booth, the voters had queued up since morning, he said.

Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma was said to have visited some polling stations in the remote areas of Dariyabad constituency. Mr. Verma's son Rakesh Verma is contesting there on a Congress ticket. The Verma junior had lost the 2007 polls to Rajiv Kumar Singh of the Samajwadi Party.

At the Ganauli Kot polling station in Rudauli Assembly constituency in Faizabad the enthusiasm among women voters was not to be missed.

In Ayodhya, a festive atmosphere pervaded as the people not only thronged the polling stations but also mingled with each other before and after casting their votes.

Polling officials in Sardar Ganpat Sahay station said the voting percentage had been good.

Goshainganj constituency presented a similar sight, with the voters lining up at booths. A polling official present at the Purv Madhyamik Vidyalaya polling station in Katehari Assembly constituency in Ambedkar Nagar district, taking note of the huge turnout, remarked that the polling percentage would exceed 60 per cent. The polling station is located in Pratapur Chauransete, the biggest gram sabha in Katehari, where State Parliamentary Affairs Minister Lalji Verma is locked in a straight fight with Shankh Lal Majhi of the Samajwadi Party. Voters' enthusiasm was also marked in Afzalgarh in Akbarpur Assembly constituency and Ambedkar Nagar district.