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43% poll in UP 6th phase
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow | May 03, 2007 08:52 IST
Last Updated: May 03, 2007 18:50 IST
The accomplishment of the 6th phase of the staggered Uttar Pradesh state Assembly election on Thursday already makes it the longest election in the country.
Even as about 75 lakh of the 1.63 crore voters exercised their franchise in 52 constituencies spread across nine districts of the state, the overall voter turnout still remained low at just about 43 per cent.
UP has 403 constituencies of which the remaining 59 will go to polls in the last phase on May 8. The election in what was India's most populous state commenced on April 7.
"So far it was West Bengal where a five-phased state election was stretched over 21 days; but our six phases have already taken 26 days while the final seventh phase was due five days ahead," State Chief Election Officer A K Bishnoi said.
However, what brought the biggest relief to the officials was the "peaceful and incident-free" poll.
"On account of Maoist infestation in large parts of three districts, we were really apprehensive about the smooth conduct of the election in this belt," Bishnoi told this scribe.
Thanks to the deployment of 10,000 well-equipped paramilitary personnel in and around 680 villages spread across the three Maoist affected districts of Chandauli, Sonbhadra and Mirzapur, things remained under control.
As a precautionary measure, security officials took a number of sorties in an army helicopter that was pressed into service as a special measure to maintain an aerial vigil across the dense albeit dry forest that provides a haven to Maoists, who also use it as a safe conduit to the bordering states of Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh.
The region was regarded as part of a Maoist corridor stretching right from Nepal in the north to Andhra Pradesh in the south.
Outlaws and persons with criminal antecedents too were in very large numbers in this phase.
According to a study carried out by Election Watch, a social voluntary organisation headed by retired director general of police I C Dwivedi, "138 of the 785 candidates in the sixth phase fray were facing criminal charges that included murder, attempt to murder, extortion, kidnapping, rape and culpable homicide."
Earlier, polling began at 7 am in each of the 52 constituencies spread across nine districts of Varanasi, Allahabad, Ghazipur, Jaunpur, Sant Ravidas Nagar, Mirzapur, Chandauli, Sonbhadra and Kaushambhi.
Along with the 52 state Assembly constituencies voting on Thursday, voting was also taking place for two Lok Sabha byelections in Robertsganj and Mirzapur.
As many as 16.3 million voters were to exercise their franchise to elect their 52 representatives out of 738 contestants at 15,428 polling centers, where 17,800 electronic voting machines were installed for the jumbo exercise.
Prominent among those whose fate will be decided in Thursday's polling included several ministers in the Mulayam Singh Yadav government, state Bharatiya Janata Party state chief Kesri Nath Tripathi and All India Mahila Congress president Reeta Bahuguna Joshi.
Besides, Sone Lal Patel, president of Apna Dal, a regional outfit and BJP ally was also in the fray.