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Home > News > Report

UP poll: When sadhus stood in queue to vote

Sharat Pradhan in Ayodhya | May 08, 2007 14:54 IST

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The ancient Hindu temple town of Ayodhya is buzzing with activity, as hundreds of saffron -- clad sadhus began their Tuesday morning with an unusual ritual of standing in queues at the polling booths.

Unlike most of the 59 constituencies that were going to poll in the final round of the staggered seven-phased Uttar Pradesh state assembly elections, voters looked enthusiastic in Ayodhya, that has been in the national spotlight  on account of the existence of a long pending dispute over claim to the 'Ramjanmbhoomi- Babri Masjid' site.

The contentious shrine has been at the root of not only India's sharp communal divide, but the demolition of the 17th century Babri mosque by Hindu hardliners in 1992 triggered major communal clashes across the country, claiming a few thousand human lives.

No wonder, despite being just one of UP's 403 constituencies, Ayodhya draws much attention from all quarters.

As against the statewide average turnout of 20 per cent in a 'peaceful and smooth poll,' Ayodhya recorded 21.5 per cent polling at 12 noon even as polling booths looked less crowded due to the rising temperature.

It is a part of Faizabad district that goes to poll along with eight other districts of Ambedkarnagar, Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Kushinagar, Deoria, Mau, Azamgarh and Ballia. Some of the areas share the international border with Nepal and neighbouring state of Bihar.

With as many as 17.8 million voters expected to cast their votes in this round across 16,804 polling stations equipped with 19,400 electronic voting machines, the final phase is regarded as the biggest poll exercise since the first phase on April 7.

Even where security deployments were concerned, the final round leaves the previous phases far behind.

"In all we have spread out nearly 1.25 lakh security personnel across the area," state chief election officer A.K.Bishnoi told over telephone from Lucknow.

He said, "We have sealed the inter-state borders with Bihar as well as the international border with Nepal with effect from Sunday evening itself to prevent infiltration by undesirable element."

According to a study carried out by Election Watch, a non-government organization headed by former state director general of police I C Dwivedi, 'as many as 162 of the 934 contestants were facing criminal charges.'

Of these, 87 belonged to major political parties. The ruling Samajwadi Party tops the list with 32 tainted candidates followed by 19 of Bharatiya Janata Party-Apna Dal combine, Bahujan Samaj Party's 20 and Congress' 16.

The round is very crucial for the ruling Samajwadi Party that had led the tally in the last state assembly election in 2002, when it bagged 21 of these 59 seats. It was followed by BSP 17, BJP 11 and Congress 4 seats. The remaining six seats were won by smaller political outfits and independents.