Lucknow, Nov 3 (PTI) An average of over 53 per cent voters exercised their franchise on Tuesday in the Uttar Pradesh assembly by-elections for seven seats with 88 candidates in the fray. The polling, which began at a slow pace at 7 am amid tight security and adherence to anti-COVID precautions, picked up momentum as the day progressed and an overall 53.62 per cent registered voters cast their votes, officials said.
The polling concluded at 6 pm amid allegations of bogus voting at three polling booths of Naugaon Sadat assembly constituency in Amroha district and reports of poll boycott at eight places for Tundla seat in Firozabad district.
“In Bangarmau, 50.59 per cent votes were cast, while 52.10 per cent votes were polled in Bulandshahr, 51.05 per cent in Deoria, 49.42 per cent in Ghatampur, 56.65 per cent in Malhani, 61.50 per cent in Naugaon Sadat and 54 per cent in Tundla,” Joint Chief Electoral Officer Ramesh Chand Rai said after the conclusion of polling.
Counting of votes will be undertaken on November 10.
Six of these seven seats were held by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), while the Malhani seat in Jaunpur district was held by the Samajwadi Party (SP).
The voting began in the morning with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath urging voters to participate in the 'mega festival of democracy' in large numbers.
'Everyone should exercise caution and discharge the duty of casting vote,' Adityanath tweeted earlier in the day.
'Democracy will win, coronavirus will lose,' he said.
In a tweet later in the day, the chief minister thanked the voters for the peaceful voting in the by-elections and said people’s participation in the “mahaparva” (festival) of democracy following all precautions of corona was exemplary.
The Samajwadi Party claimed it was posting victories on all the seats.
SP spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary, in a statement, said the pattern of voting indicated that his party was going to win all the seven seats and the party president Akhilesh Yadav has thanked the voters for displaying courage in fearlessly exercising their franchise.
Chaudhary also accused the ruling BJP of resorting to tactics to discourage voters at some places after getting a feel of their impending defeat, adding that the Election Commission has been apprised with the complaints received from different districts.
Earlier in the day amid the ongoing polling, Chief Electoral Officer Ajay Kumar Shukla said, 'All preparations to ensure a free, fair and peaceful polling, keeping in mind the coronavirus pandemic, have been made.' 'Voters will have to follow the anti-COVID protocol and maintain safe distance among themselves while casting votes,' he said.
The voting began with the deployment of adequate number of security personnel at polling booths, including 371 'critical' ones.
Amid the ongoing polling, BJP candidate Sangeeta Chauhan for Naugaon Sadat seat in Amroha district alleged fake voting at three polling booths--Booth No 240, 24 and 242---in her constituency and demanded that those wearing ‘burqa’ should show their faces to enable poll officials ascertain their identities.
'Fake voting is going on but the administration is unable to understand this,' she told reporters.
'We are repeatedly saying this, but no one is listening to us,' she added.
The chief electoral officer told PTI that he would look into the allegations.
A report from Firozabad said voters at eight polling booths in Tundla constituency boycotted polling over lack of development in the region.
Though the voters reached the polling booths in the morning, they boycotted polling. Later, Chief Development Officer Neha Jain reached the spot and pacified the voters to exercise their franchise.
According to Firozabad election office, at booth number 30 at Rudhau Mustkil voters boycotted the by-election throughout the day alleging no development in their area and insisting that they will not vote unless they get an assurance for the development.
Chanting 'Vikas nahi, to vote nahi' (no development, no vote), voters at the Rudhau Mustkil booth boycotted the polling, while at Nagla Balu, polling began but after seven votes were cast, the voters boycotted the polls.
The Yogi Adityanath government has been facing the opposition flak over the law and order situation in the state, particularly after the Hathras and the Balrampur rape-and-murder cases.
The Naugaon Sadat seat fell vacant after the death of state Cabinet minister and former cricketer Chetan Chauhan.
The Ghatampur bypoll in Kanpur Nagar district was necessitated due to the death of state minister Kamal Rani Varun. Both ministers had died of COVID-19.
The Tundla seat fell vacant after its MLA S P Singh Baghel was elected to the Lok Sabha, while the Bangarmau seat in Unnao fell vacant after the conviction of BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar in a rape case.
The BJP had dumped Sengar soon after he was found involved in the rape case.
The bypolls to the Bulandshahr, Deoria and Malhani seats were necessitated due to deaths of sitting MLAs Virendra Singh Sirohi, Janmejay Singh and Parasnath Yadav (SP), respectively.
Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad's Azad Samaj Party is also testing its electoral popularity in Bulandshahr by fielding Mohammad Yameen.
While Bulandshahr has the highest number of 18 candidates, Ghatampur has the lowest number of six contestants. Sixteen contenders are in the fray in Malhani, 14 each in Naugaon Sadat and Deoria, 10 each in Bangarmau and Tundla.
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