Voters stand in a queue to cast their ballots outside a polling station during the fifth phase of the Uttar Pradesh state assembly elections, in Allahabad on February 27, 2022. (SANJAY KANOJIA / AFP)
New Delhi: The fifth phase of the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday saw a voter turnout of 53.93 per cent till 5 pm, with the highest voting being in Chitrakoot (59.50%) and Ayodhya (58.01%). In this phase, 61 Assembly seats went to the polls spread across 12 districts -- Chitrakoot, Bahraich, Ayodhya, Amethi, Sultanpur, Rae Bareli, Kaushambi, Pragraj, Shrawasti, Gonda, Baranki and Pratapgarh. There were 693 candidates in the fray, of which 90 were women. Barring a few reports of EVM glitches and some stray cases of poll violence, the phase went off largely peaceful.
The State Election Commission said a total 0.35 per cent control units and 1.83 per cent Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPAT) were replaced of the total deployed in the phase following complaints in their functioning. During the mock polls, 0.59 per cent balloting units, 0.72 per cent control units and 1.27 per cent VVPAT units were replaced before the voting started.
In Pratapgarh’s Kunda Assembly seat, SP candidate Gulshan Yadav’s convoy was allegedly attacked, after which the candidates of all parties were stopped from touring booths. "There was some issue at a polling station in Pratapgarh. A team of police and polling officers has reached the site. Necessary action is being taken," additional chief electoral officer B.D. Ram Tiwari said in Lucknow. Besides, there was a low intensity bomb blast in Prayagraj, during which a man died while two others were injured, leading to panic and chaos in the area. The police is investigating if this had any connection with the ongoing polls.
In nearby Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple as he campaigned for the BJP. He said it will be a privilege to serve the people of Varanasi till his last day, which was an indirect response to a comment by Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav that people come to Varanasi in their final days.
"In Kashi, there used to be bomb blasts on the ghats. The terrorists were fearless because the Samajwadi Party was with them. The government was openly withdrawing the cases from the terrorists. We have seen how much people have stooped low in Indian politics, but when in Kashi prayers for my death were done, I felt elated. This meant that till my death neither I will leave Kashi nor its people will leave me," Mr Modi said at a rally in Varanasi.
Addressing a rally in Nautanwa, Union home minister Amit Shah said: "Earlier, government land was snatched by ‘bahubalis’. Dalits, the underprivileged… everyone was deprived. These ‘parivarwadis’ in their tenure committed atrocities against the poor… The BJP got the people’s land free from the land mafias… In the last five years, there was a decline of 70 per cent in dacoities, 29 per cent in murders, 69 per cent in loot, 35 per cent in kidnappings and 52 per cent in rapes in Uttar Pradesh under the Yogi Adityanath government."
Responding to the political barbs, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav said that the people of UP have made up their mind to pack off ‘Babaji’ back to his ‘math’, while referring to chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who is mahant of the Gorakhnath Math and five-time MP from Gorakhpur, where Mr Yadav was campaigning on Sunday for SP candidate Vinay Shankar Tiwari. In Deoria, he said: "Babaji did not give you a laptop as he doesn’t know how to operate it. He doesn’t even know how to run a smartphone. How can a chief minister who does not know how to run a laptop and does not understand the importance of computers and smartphones run the state?"
He added the BJP has been unable to digest the crossover by its leaders to the SP. "They are perturbed. They can’t seem to remember the day when Swami Prasad Maurya joined us. I was waiting since 2011. Had he joined us after leaving the BSP, we need not have seen bad days for five years. Had he joined us in 2017, UP would have been forward today," the SP chief in Fazilnagar, while referring to Swami Prasad Maurya.