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UP: Polling peaceful, 46 percent turnout
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow | April 07, 2007 09:51 IST
Last Updated: April 07, 2007 21:00 IST
The first round of polling on Saturday in the seven-phased Uttar Pradesh state Assembly elections is rated as the first ever 'booth capturing-free' poll in India's most populous state.
Sixty-two of UP's 403 Assembly constituencies went to the polls across 13 districts located in the south-western part of the state, where as many as 839 candidates were in the electoral fray.
Only 46 percent of the 1.16 crore voters chose to exercise their franchise. While political parties regarded this as 'low turnout', state chief election officer Anuj Kumar Bishnoi sought to attribute it to 'total absence of bogus voting'.
Asked to comment on the unprecedented security arrangements and unusual strictness by the Election Commission , Bishnoi said, "All we did was to enforce the rule of law; if that is what kept undesirable elements at bay, it should be considered good."
Asked if this was the lowest ever turnout in the history of the state, which has a total of 11.4 crore voters, he said, "The last election in this part of the state in 2002 had witnessed 52 percent polling."
Notwithstanding the EC's claims, different political parties attribute the low turnout to the 'undue restrictions by the local police' as also the increased heat, with mercury shooting beyond 41 degrees in certain places.
Of the 37 complaints received by the EC, quite a few were stated to be against obstructions put up by the police in free movement of voters in certain areas.
Polling commenced at 7 am and concluded at 5 pm without a single incident of violence from any of the 13 districts where these constituencies were located.
These districts were Mainpuri, Etah, Kanpur, Kanpur Dehat, Jalaun, Hamirpur, Jhansi, Lalitpur,Mahoba , Agra , Etawah, Auraiya and Firozabad .
Admitting that he was truly apprehensive about occurrence of violence, principal home secretary Chandra Mauli said, "It has been an unusually satisfying poll without any untoward incident."
State chief election officer A KBishnoi described it as 'the rarest of rare UP polls , with not a single incident of booth-capturing or any other kind of violence'.
He even dismissed earlier reports about a 'minor altercation' between the chief minister's brother Shivpal Yadav and some cops in Akbarpur town in Bhartana constituency from where the chief minister was contesting as 'rumour'.
Prominent among those whose fate was sealed in ballot boxes today included UP chief minister and Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was in the fray from Barthana in Etawah district. His younger brother and the most high profile UP minister Shivpal Yadav was also seeking re-election from Jaswantnagar constituency in the same district.
Even as umpteen parties and independents were in the fray, the key players in the current battle included the ruling Samajwadi Party, Bhartiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress.
Besides, Jan Morcha, a smaller political outfit that was floated by SP rebel Raj Babbar, was posing a threat to the ruling party in and around Agra.
About 60,000 paramilitary personnel were detailed to guard 15951 polling centers set up in these 62 constituencies.
As many as 18,000 electronic voting machines were in place for the first phase polling .
This was the first time that election in the country's most populous state was spread over such a long span of one month. The last phase of polling is slated for May 8.
Besides intensified deployment of special observers, and unprecedented security arrangements, the Election Commission has set up two control rooms, one at the Election Commission's office in Delhi and other at Lucknow to receive complaints from public and political parties.
Deputy Election Commissioner J P Prakash was provided a helicopter to carry out surprise checks in different places. The second phase of polling will be held on April 13 for 58 seats.
The third phase on April 18 for 57 seats, the fourth phase on April 23 for 57 seats, the fifth phase on April 28 for 58 seats, the sixth phase on May 3 for 57 seats.
The final phase of the polling will be held on May 8 when voting for 59 assembly segments will be held.
The counting of votes will take place on May 11, three days ahead of the constitutional deadline of the completion of the present Assembly's term.