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UP polls will set stage for Lok Sabha
April 06, 2007 17:25 IST
The first phase of balloting in 62 seats in 13 districts goes underway tomorrow with Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav fighting with his back to the wall to retain power.
The Bahujan Samaj Party led by Mayawati and the BJP are seen as Yadav's principal challengers in the polls that will end on May eight. Counting of votes is scheduled for May 11.
The elections to the 403-member assembly will be held in seven phases spread over a month.
The Congress, which is on the political fringe in the state, has made a determined bid to become a crucial player without whose support the next government cannot be formed.
Prominent among those whose fate will be decided in the first phase of polls are Yadav, also the Samajwadi Party chief. He is contesting from Bharthana in his home district of Etawah. His brother Shivpal Singh Yadav is trying his luck again from Jaswantnagar constituency in the same district.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha L K Advani and several key BJP leaders including Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and CPI-M leader Prakash Karat were prominent among those who campaigned in the state.
Barring the BSP, which relied on the crowd-pulling power of its president Mayawati, other major political parties roped in star campaigners to garner votes for them.
The BJP brought in actress Hema Malini and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu besides party president Rajnath Singh and chief ministerial candidate Kalyan Singh.
Film stars Jaya Bachchan and Jayaprada sought votes for the Samajwadi Party along with Yadav and Amar Singh, while Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul were the Congress' main draw.
Amid apprehensions among several political parties about free and fair polls in the state, the Election Commission has put in place unprecedented precautions to ensure impartial and violence-free elections.
Sources in the Commission said a decision to hold polls in seven phases was in itself an indicator of the micro-level management of the elections, for which total security at all polling stations will be provided by Central paramilitary forces.
They said the challenge in Uttar Pradesh was greater than that for the polls in West Bengal or Bihar and the Commission was leaving nothing to chance.
In the wake of recent violence in Lucknow and Kanpur, the Commission has directed poll officials to act quickly in gathering advance information about any possible trouble ahead of the polls.
In other unprecedented steps, the Commission earlier ordered shifting of the chief secretary, police chief and several other senior civil and police officials to ensure free and fair polls in the state.