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61% turnout in U.P. Phase 4 polling

This phase is crucial for the SP and the BSP, which last time won nearly 40 of the 53 seats up for grabs

February 23, 2017 11:56 pm | Updated February 24, 2017 11:36 am IST - Lucknow

The fourth phase of voting in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections for 53 seats concluded on Thursday. Polling was held for 19 seats in seven districts of the impoverished Bundelkhand region, in addition to the five major districts of Allahabad, Pratapgarh, Kaushambi, Fatehpur and Rae Bareli, a Nehru-Gandhi bastion. Total voting recorded in this phase till 5 p.m. was 61%, which is expected to rise by 2% given the many persons still waiting to vote.

In 2012, the SP won 24 seats in these districts — the highest number — while the BSP was second with 15, seven of which came in Bundelkhand. The BJP, which is hoping to make gains here based on its outreach to non-Yadav backward castes had won only five, while the Congress has six seats in its hand.

Heavy polling

While both seats in Lalitpur district in Bundelkhand recorded over 71% voting, the lowest turnout was in Allahabad North (42%) and Bara (49%), also in the Sangam city. Hamirpur district, which has two seats, recorded 60.39%, while Allahabad district, which has 12 seats, the highest in the State, had an average turnout of 50.3%.

Bundelkhand, often in focus for its drought, poverty, illegal mining and agrarian problems, was locked in a three-way fight. In the 2012 elections, the BSP won the highest number of seats in Bundelkhand, seven, while the SP got five, the Congress four and the BJP three, out of which one was later lost in a byelection.

The BSP is confident that it can double its tally this time — the region has traditionally been strong for the party and some of its top leaders, including Nasimuddin Siqqidui, hail from here. In 2007, the BSP won a commanding 12 seats. It is also the only party to fight on all 53 seats in this phase. The SP and the Congress are fighting on 30 and 23 respectively.

“We are aiming at 17 out of the 19 seats. We will be the party to beat on every seat,” says Gaya Charan Dinkar, BSP MLA from Naraini in Banda, and also the leader of the opposition. He faced a tough challenge from the BJP this time. While he says that demonetisation will hurt the BJP’s chances, he accuses the SP of taking anti-people decisions, patronising illegal mining and goondaism.

BSP plank

A major plank of the BSP’s campaign was to talk about the projects started here under Mayawati’s previous tenure — overbridges, technical institutes, medical college and an agricultural university. But there is also caste mobilisation. BSP workers across the region claim that the party, despite losing top OBC leaders from the region, including the Maurya and Patel communities, gained through the support of the Nishad-Kewat-Mallah, most backward castes.“We have the support of the Nishad and Kewat communities. All top Nishad leaders in the region, including Ache Lal Nishad, and the core team of SP Rajya Sabha MP Vishamhar Nishad are fully with us,” says BSP worker R.K. Nishad in Tindwari.

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