The Election Commission received 15,000 complaints and all were attended to and disposed of

The campaign for the first phase of the Assembly elections for Uttar Pradesh ended at 5 p.m. on Monday as the Election Commission completed all the arrangements, including taking unprecedented security measures, for the smooth conduct of the elections on Wednesday.

Deputy Election Commissioner Alok Shukla, in charge of U.P. elections, told The Hindu from Lucknow that electronic voting machines (EVMs) would be moved to the polling stations on Tuesday as most of the 55 constituencies, out of the total 403, going to the polls in the first phase were in the central and eastern regions of the State spread over 10 districts.

He said the Commission had introduced innovative ideas, such as setting up call centres for registering complaints and SMS-based services to voters to locate polling stations and names in the electoral rolls. The EC had received 15,000 complaints and all were attended to and disposed of, he said.

Meanwhile, sources said that besides the State police, the home guards and forces from the Madhya Pradesh armed police, over 680 companies of Central paramilitary forces, had been moved to the constituencies going to the poll in this phase for the security duty after they completed poll duties in Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur. The forces carried out flag marches to instil confidence among the public.

The Commission had taken extra security measures considering the sensitivity of the State, which had witnessed extremist/militant related violence in the recent past. Intelligence agencies from the State and the Central governments were monitoring sensitive districts, the sources added.

U.P. Governor B.L. Joshi on Monday issued the notification for the last and seventh phase of the poll, scheduled on March 3, covering 60 constituencies.

This phase will cover Bijnore, Moradabad, Bhimnagar, Rampur, Jyotiba Phule Nagar, Badaun, Bareilly, Pilibhit, Shahjahanpur and Lakhimpur Kheri districts.

Litmus test

Atiq Khan reports from Lucknow:

The first phase of the elections will be a litmus test for the Samajwadi Party, which is making a determined bid to stage a comeback to the pinnacle of power in Lucknow, as well as for the Congress, which is hoping for a turnaround largely on account of party icon Rahul Gandhi's hectic campaigning.

Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma, it is alleged, played a crucial role in the distribution of tickets in this phase, in the hope that the ‘Beni factor' would benefit the Congress. But, the recent protests against the Minister in Gonda (during the election meeting of United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi last week) and in Fatehpur in Barabanki district presented a different picture.

Mayawati's caution

Also at stake is the reputation of Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati, who is hoping to retain power, notwithstanding the pre-poll analyses which suggested a downslide for the party. In fact, at her election meetings, the BSP president has cautioned her party workers and committed vote-bank not to be swayed by pre-poll predictions.

As for the Bharatiya Janata Party, with senior party leader L.K. Advani raising the Ram temple issue during an election meeting in Ayodhya on Saturday, the issue is back on the party's agenda.

Smaller parties such as the Peace Party, which is banking on the support of the backward Muslims, the Most Backward Classes and the oppressed Dalits, have made the other parties — particularly the Samajwadi Party — jittery, as the party is expecting that the Muslims who deserted it in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections will extend their support in the coming polls.

Among the important candidates whose fate will be sealed in the ballot boxes on February 8 are Parliamentary Affairs Minister Lalji Verma from Katehari in Ambedkar Nagar district; Mr. Beni Prasad Verma's son, Rakesh Verma, from Daryabad in Barabanki district; five- time BJP MLA Lalloo Singh from Ayodhya; the former Vidhan Sabha Speaker, Mata Prasad Pandey, from Itwa in Siddhartnagar district; and the former Congress Minister, Ammar Rizvi from Sevata in Sitapur district.