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UP polls: Will rains save the day for the BSP?

Last updated on: February 8, 2012 12:29 IST

UP polls: Will rains save the day for the BSP?

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Sharat Pradhan in Barabanki

Inclement weather on account of night-long rain which continued until Wednesday noon has led to a poor turnout of voters in large parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh, where 55 state assembly constituencies are currently going to polls. Sharat Pradhan reports from Barabanki.

Chief Electoral Office Umesh Sinha confirms barely 5.2 per cent turnout in the first two hours of polling, which commenced at 7 am.

The bad weather may go on to prove to the benefit of the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party, as was visible from the large turnout of Dalit voters.

Local BSP coordinator Suresh Gautam, who was among the early voters at a prominent polling booth in Barabanki, said, "You can see that most of the people coming out to vote in this bad weather are poor Dalits who have defied the rain and chill because their commitment is for Maya's BSP."

However, 20-year-old first-time voter Amita held a different view.

"This is the first time I have got the opportunity to vote. Therefore, I made it a point to get up and rush to the polling centre as I wanted to be the first one to cast my vote. What I am looking for is not a good legislator, but a good leader for the country. I see that hope in someone like Rahul Gandhi," she said.

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Image: A polling station in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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Polling, an acid test for Rahul

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Polling in the 55 constituencies today will be an acid test for Rahul, who has been campaigning extensively in this area where the Congress has performed quite well in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, when the party bagged six parliamentary seats.

Two of these members of Parliament -- Beni Prasad Verma and KPN Singh -- were holding key portfolios in the Union Cabinet. Verma was also given a prominent place in the election campaign with Rahul, in the hope of wooing the Other Backward Classes, of who Verma is perceived as a popular leader.

The otherwise busy town of Barabanki looked quite deserted even after it stopped drizzling around 10 am; there were no long queues at other polling centres. Even though the town has a fairly large Muslim population, it was not reflected in the voter turnout at press time.

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Image: Polling officers wait for voters at a polling station in Ayodhya
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
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'Muslims should extend their support to Congress'

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However, 65-year-old Qazi Mohammed Zaheer Akhtar, a retired government employee, who was among the early voters, claimed that Muslims were enthusiastic about casting their vote and would turn out in large numbers during the day.

"Muslims have over the past several years supported the Samajwadi Party or the BSP. But I am of the view that we should extend our support and try the Congress this time," he said.

He added that Muslims have still not pardoned SP party president Mulayam Singh for aligning with BJP leader Kalyan Singh who was responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.


Image: Mohammad Qazi speaks to the media outside a polling station in Barabanki
Photographs: Sandip Pal
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Photographs: Sandip Pal
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