The third phase of polling for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections on Sunday will see voting for 69 seats across 12 districts and are being viewed as a crucial test of popularity for Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
The ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) held 55 of these 69 seats across 29 constituencies in the 2012 polls.
Of the remaining seats, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) held six, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) five and Congress two. One seat was won by an independent.
Some 2.41 crore voters, including 1.31 crore men, 1.10 crore women and 1,026 voters from the third gender will decide the fate of 826 candidates on February 19.
The 12 districts where polling is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. are Farrukhabad, Mainpuri, Hardoi, Kannauj, Kanpur rural, Kanpur city, Unnao, Lucknow, Barabanki, Auraiyya, Sitapur and Etawah (Akhilesh Yadav’s native).
Prominent among those whose fates are at stake are Nitin Agarwal, son of SP leader Naresh Agarwal; Tanuj Punia, son of Congress leader P.L. Punia; BSP turncoat Brijesh Pathak from Lucknow (central) and Congress turncoat Rita Bahuguna Joshi from Lucknow Cantt on BJP tickets.
Bahuguna is pitted against SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav. The patriarch’s brother and SP leader Shivpal Singh Yadav is also a key figure to watch out for as he contests from the Jaswantnagar seat in Etawah.
Ministers Arvind Singh ‘Gop’, Fareed Mehfooz Kidwai, Vijay Bahadur Pal, Abhishek Mishra, Nitin Agarwal, Narendra Verma, Rajeev Kumar Singh are also in the fray on Sunday.
Other than Etawah, Mainpuri where Tej Pratap Yadav is an SP MP and Kannauj where Dimple Yadav, wife of the Chief Minister is an MP is also crucial for the ruling party which has formed an alliance with the Congress.
The SP is contesting from 61 while the Congress is contesting from 14 seats.
The BSP has fielded candidates in all 69 seats while the BJP is contesting from 68 seats. The Rashtriya Lok Dal has fielded candidates for 40 seats. Most seats will see a triangular contest between the BJP, BSP and SP-Congress alliance.
The key issues on which the elections are being fought include farmers’ plight, poor law and order, unemployment, issues of women’s safety and demonetisation.
There are 16,671 polling centres and 25,603 polling stations in this phase.
The maximum number of candidates in fray are from Etawah (21), while the least number is in Haidergarh (3) assembly constituency of Barabanki, neighbouring the state capital here.
Lucknow Central and Lucknow West have 17 candidates each, while Farrukhabad and Bhojpur have 20 each.
Following the ugly power struggle over the past few months in the state’s first family and the ruling party, Mulayam Singh Yadav has kept himself away from campaigning for the party which he founded 25 years ago.
Sullen at his unceremonious ouster by son Akhilesh Yadav in January from the post of national president, Mulayam Singh has only sought votes for his younger brother Shivpal Yadav and daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav.