Lucknow/Dehradun: Polling began on Wednesday in 67 Assembly constituencies of western Uttar Pradesh in the second of seven phases and in 69 Assembly seats in Uttarakhand.
The ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh had in 2012 won 34 of these seats spread across 11 districts. It has tied-up with Congress this time in the contest against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
An impressive turnout of over 65 per cent was recorded in 67 Assembly constituencies across 11 districts of western Uttar Pradesh, figuring in the second phase of the crucial state polls today.
The districts where polling were held included Bijnor, Saharanpur, Moradabad, Sambhal, Rampur, Bareilly, Amroha, Pilibhit, Kheri, Shahjahanpur and Badaun.
A total of 2.28 crore voters, including over 1.04 crore women, are eligible to cast their ballots in 14,771 polling centres and 23,693 polling stations in the second of the seven-phase polling.
"Polling was held peacefully amid tight security," UP Chief Electoral Officer T Venkatesh said.
The CEO office said the average turnout was over 65 per cent in these seats.
The voter turnout in the first phase was recorded at 64.2 per cent - an increase of nearly three per cent from the first phase turnout in the 2012 state Assembly polls.
At Bareilly, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi's 115-year-old grandfather Z H Kazmi cast his ballot assisted by his family members.
At certain places, long queues were seen outside polling stations. First time voters were seen enthusiastic, taking selfies and proudly showing off the indelible ink imprint on their fingers.
Muslim women clad in burqas were seen outside several booths, while the photograph of a newly married couple going to cast vote in Bareilly went viral on social media.
Of the 67 seats at stake, the ruling Samajwadi Party had won 34 seats in the 2012 polls, followed by BSP 18, BJP 10, Congress three and others two.
In the present phase, 721 candidates, including 62 women are in the fray. The maximum candidates (22) are from Barhapur (Bijnor) and a minimum of four nominees from Dhanaura (Amroha).
The prominent contestants include controversial SP minister Azam Khan and his son Abdullah Azam, who are contesting from Rampur and Swar seats respectively, Saif Ali Naqvi, son of former Congress MP Zafar Ali Naqvi, former central minister Jitin Prasada from Tilhar (Shahjahanpur), BJP Legislature Party leader Suresh Kumar Khanna from Shahjahanpur city and state minister Mehboob Ali from Amroha.
Elaborate arrangements were made for free and fair polling with deployment of 51,771 police constables, 52,598 homeguards, 5,397 sub-inspectors and 3,666 head constables to maintain law and order.
The Election Commission has barred political parties and candidates from publishing advertisements in newspapers today and tomorrow without its approval. The poll body has asked them to get the advertisements pre-certified from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee at the state and district levels before their publication.
The Commission said the decision was taken in view of past instances of advertisements of "offending and misleading nature" in print media on such occasions, which vitiate the elections.
The upcoming five phases of polling will be held on February 19, 23, 27 and on March 4 and 8. Counting of votes will be taken up on March 11.
Over 68 per cent of the electorate in Uttarakhand voted today, two per cent more than the last Assembly polls, to decide the fate of 628 candidates in 69 out of the total 70 seats. The turnout in the 2012 Assembly polls was around 66 per cent.
The State Election Office here said over 68 per cent of the electorate cast their votes by 5 pm but many people were still standing in the queues outside the booths, implying that the poll percentage may go up by the time the final figures are collated.
Poll schedule for the lone Karnaprayag seat in Chamoli district had to be revised to March 9 due to the death of BSP candidate Kuldeep Singh Kanwasi in a road accident on Sunday last.
Polling took place amid tight security, with nearly 30000 security personnel being deployed at 10685 booths, of which 460 were in snowbound areas.
For the first time, Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines were used in three constituencies including BHEL Ranipur, Dharampur and Rudrapur.
In most of the seats, ruling Congress and BJP are locked in a straight contest. However, rebel candidates of both the parties are in the fray as independents in several constituencies and may upset the calculations of the official nominees of their respective parties.
Among those testing their political luck are 12 former Congress MLAs who are in the fray as BJP candidates this time. They include Yashpal Arya (Bajpur), Harak Singh Rawat (Kotdwar), Shailarani Rawat (Kedarnath), Shailendra Mohan Singhal (Jaspur), Kunwar Pranav Singh Champion (Khanpur), Pradeep Batra (Roorkee) and Subodh Uniyal (Narendranagar).
Haridwar (rural) and Kichcha in Udhamsingh Nagar district are two high profile seats to be watched out for as Chief Minister Harish Rawat is in fray from both.
Chaubattakhal is also an important seat from where Satpal Maharaj is contesting besides Ranikhet from where Pradesh BJP president Ajay Bhatt is in the fray.
BJP, while making corruption its main poll plank, has asked people to vote for change whereas Congress has sought a second term in power to carry out unfinished development work.
Manipur will vote on March 4 and 8. Goa and Punjab have voted on February 4. Counting of votes in all the states will be taken up on March 11, culminating the exercise....