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UP 5th phase: 'VIP' pockets witness low polling
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow | April 28, 2007 21:41 IST
Last Updated: April 28, 2007 22:10 IST
Some of the key 'VIP' areas that went to the polls during the fifth phase of the staggered Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, witnessed an all time low polling on Saturday.
Fifty-seven assembly constituencies spread across nine districts, figuring in this round, recorded a voter turnout of just about 43 per cent -- the lowest count in any election in recent times.
The lowest polling of a pathetic 28 per cent was recorded in Lucknow (West) Assembly constituency, where Bharatiya Janata Party star and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had addressed his one and only election campaign rally earlier this week.
Lucknow, that was also Vajpayee's Lok Sabha constituency, had recorded an overall turnout of just 37 per cent -- described as the lowest ever in history. While each of the city Assembly segments in the state capital recorded 28-32 per cent turnout, it was the rural segment Mahona that witnessed a 'high' turnout of 38 per cent.
Even Congress' star campaigners Sonia Gandhi, UPA chairperson, and her son Rahul failed to draw any substantial number of voters in their respective areas of influence. Not just they, but Rahul's charismatic sister Priyanka too had camped for nearly a week in these two Parliamentary areas exhorting the electorate to make it a point to exercise their franchise.
While the five Assembly segments under Rae Bareli Parliamentary constituency -- the pocket burrow of Sonia Gandhi, recorded 45 per cent poll, Rahul's Amethi Parliamentary constituency witnessed an even lower turnout of 42.5 per cent.
What has come as a major surprise to all and sundry was the extremely low polling of 34 per cent in Kunda, from where the most controversial candidate Raghuraj Pratap Singh -- better known as Raja Bhaiya -- was seeking re-election for the fourth consecutive term. Known for its unusually high turnout, Kunda had recorded 73 per cent poll during the last election in 2002.
The all-time low polling this time has clearly left the all-powerful feudal lord-turned UP's food minister completely shocked. Political observers see it as a reflection of his failure to use his undue influence and even coercion on the voters, who were so far either literally terrorised or awe-struck by him.
Earlier, officials were really apprehensive of violence in this phase, especially on account of the presence of some dreaded outlaws in the fray. As many as 115 of the 850 contestants are facing criminal charges.
While polling was scheduled in 58 constituencies on Saturday, it got countermanded in one seat due to the death of the Congress candidate in a road accident.
As many as 1.59 crore voters were to exercise their franchise through 15,492 polling stations spread across the nine districts of Hardoi, Unnao, Lucknow, Rae Bareli, Pratapgarh, Sultanpur, Fatehpur, Chitrakoot and Banda, where more than 18,000 electronic voting machines were in place for the day's poll.
Significantly, the Congress' score in both Rae Bareli and Amethi had been rather low during the last Assembly polls in 2002. Of the 10 Assembly segments under the two Lok Sabha constituencies, Congress had won only two. On the other hand, BJP had retained four of the five seats under Vajpayee's Lucknow Lok Sabha domain.
As per the tally of the last Assembly poll in 2002, Bahujan Samaj Party topped the list with 19 seats. It was followed by the BJP's 16. The ruling Samajwadi Party stood at number three with 14 seats in its kitty, followed by Congress' four and 5 independents.