UP assembly bypolls: Over 51 % votes cast an hour before slated end of voting

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Lucknow, Nov 3 (PTI) Voters turnout for the Uttar Pradesh assembly byelections for seven seats crossed 51 per cent at 5 pm on Tuesday, an hour before the slated end of polling.

The polling for the seven seats with 88 candidates in the fray, which began at 7 am amid tight security and adherence to anti-COVID precautions, picked up momentum as the day progressed.

The voters turnout went up to 51.22 per cent by 5 pm from just 18.49 per cent at 11 am, the Election Commission said.

A total of 49.45 per cent votes were cast in Bangarmau till 5 pm, 49.77 per cent in Bulandshahr, 48.48 per cent in Deoria, 47.65 per cent in Ghatampur, 55.60 per cent in Malhani, 57.60 per cent in Naugaon Sadat and 50 per cent in Tundla.

Six of these seven seats were held by the Bharatiya Janata Party, while the Malhani seat in Jaunpur district was with the Samajwadi Party.

The voting began in the morning with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath making an appeal to voters to participate in large numbers in the 'mega festival of democracy'.

'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.

The SP also urged voters to vote in large numbers.

'Those in power and responsible for farmers’ worries, women’s insecurity, poor health facilities, labourers joblessness and collapsed law and order should be given a reply in today's assembly bypolls,' it tweeted.

The electoral fortune of 88 candidates, including nine women, will be decided by 24.34 lakh voters, who are eligible to exercise their franchise at 3,655 polling booths spread over 1,754 polling centres.

'All preparations to ensure a free, fair and peaceful polling, keeping in mind the coronavirus pandemic, have been made,' Chief Electoral Officer Ajay Kumar Shukla said.

'Voters will have to follow the COVID-19 protocol and maintain safe distance among themselves while casting votes,' he added.

The voting began with deployment of “adequate” security forces at polling booths, including 371 'critical' ones. Counting of votes will take place next Tuesday.

Amid the ongoing polling, BJP candidate Sangeeta Chauhan for Naugaon Sadat seat in Amroha district alleged 'fake voting in her constituency and demanded that those wearing the burqa should remove the face cover 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.' The chief electoral officer told PTI that he would look into the allegations.

People at some places in Tundla constituency in Firozabad district boycotted the by-election, 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 number 30 boycotted the polling.

In a video clip that surfaced on social media, area’s Sub-divisional Magistrate Ekta Singh is purportedly seen talking to the people and urging them to vote.

The Yogi Adityanath government has been facing 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 cabinet minister and former cricketer Chetan Chauhan. The Ghatampur bypoll in Kanpur Nagar district was necessitated due to the death of minister Kamal Rani Varun.

Both the ministers had succumbed to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

S P Singh Baghel, who was the Tundla MLA, was elected to the Lok Sabha, while the Bangarmau seat in Unnao fell vacant following the conviction of Kuldeep Singh Sengar in a rape case. Sengar had won on a BJP ticket, but the party dumped him following a hue and cry after his conviction.

The bypolls to the Bulandshahr, Deoria and Malhani seats were necessitated due to the demise of sitting MLAs Virendra Singh Sirohi, Janmejay Singh and Parasnath Yadav (SP) respectively.

Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad's Azad Samaj Party is testing its electoral popularity in Bulandshahr by fielding Md Yameen, as it looks forward to consolidate its hold among the Dalits in the run up to the 2022 assembly polls.

While Buland 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.

Congress state president Ajay Kumar Lallu had said during campaigning that the people had decided to teach the ruling BJP a lesson.

'This will be visible in the by-elections. The outcome of these bypolls will mark the commencement of the decline of the BJP and resurgence of the Congress,' he had said.

Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati had appealed to the people to vote for her party candidates and send a political message to the rivals.

SP chief Akhilesh Yadav had said the results of these polls would determine the path of the state politics, adding voters had to choose between 'development and destruction'.

Facing opposition criticism over the law and order situation in the state, Adityanath had said his government would come out with a law to deal with 'love jihad' and used the Hindu funeral chant 'Ram naam satya hai' to threaten those who don't respect their daughters and sisters. PTI NAV SMI CORR ABN RAX RAX