Indian state elections kick off with polling in UP

Lucknow: Battle for Uttar Pradesh began on Thursday which is also being seen by all political parties as the semi-final in the run up to the general elections of 2024. In six hours till 1 pm voters mostly from western part of the heartland state polled 35.03 per cent votes after a slow start but a steady rise in polling. Political parties in 11 districts are battling for votes from 2.28 crore electorates for 58 constituency seats in this phase. After polling began at 7 am, Shamli recorded 41.16 per cent votes in six hours, Muzaffarnagar 35.73, Meerut 34.51, Baghpat 38.01, Ghaziabad 33.40, Hapur 39.97, Gautam Buddh Nagar 30.53, Bulandshahr 37.03, Aligarh 32.07, Mathura 36.26, and Agra 36.93 per cent. Western Uttar Pradesh is crucial being the hub of farmers’ stir. A four-cornered contest is underway between BJP, SP-RLD, BSP and Congress. Prominent candidates in the first phase are sitting MLA from Noida and son of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Pankaj Singh, and former Uttarakhand Governor Baby Rani Maurya, who is contesting from Agra Rural. There were some complaints raised regarding EVM and VVPAT malfunction, but Chief Electoral Officer Ajay Kumar Shukla said they were being addressed. “Law and order is maintained at all polling stations and voting has been peaceful so far,” he said. This election is a referendum on the government of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, with central ministers putting its full force behind him raising slogans of the double-engine government. His big challenger is the coalition led by Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, who has Muslim-Yadav support. He has ben holding pressers with key ally Jayant Chaudhary of Rashtriya Lok Dal, whose supporters can influence over 30 seats. The election is litmus test for Congress’s Priyanka Gandhi, who has left no stones unturned, visiting victims of crimes and accidents, courting arrest and wooing the women in the state. Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party can have an impact on the results of 20 seats. BJP won 53 of the 58 seats in the 2017 elections. The counting of votes will be held on March 10 and results of Goa, Manipur, Punjab, and Uttarakhand will also be announced together. UNI ING

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