Polling for 14 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh began this morning in the fourth phase of elections in the state to decide the fate of 233 candidates including BJP chief Rajnath Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi. "The polling started at 7 am and will continue till 6 pm.
It is going on peacefully", UP CEO Umesh Singh said. This phase covers Lucknow, Rae Bareli, Dhaurahra, Sitapur, Mishrikh, Unnao, Mohanlalganj, Lucknow, Kanpur, Jalaun, Jhansi, Hamirpur, Banda, Fatehpur and Barabanki seats, which lie in Bundelkhand region and parts of central UP. The fate of 233 candidates including 39 females will be decided by 2.46 crore voters that include 1.34 crore men and 1.12 crore women. In 2009 Lok Sabha polls, polling percentage was 47.99, while in 2012 assembly polls the percentage was 61.56.
A total of 25,485 pollng centres have been made in which 3554 are identified as critical. The focus would be on Rae Bareli and Lucknow seats from where Sonia and Rajnath respectively are in the fray.
Sonia, who is contesting from her traditional Rae Bareli, has no major contestant against her with SP deciding not to field its candidate against her. The prestigious Lucknow seat, which is in the limelight with the entry of the BJP's national president, is set to witness a tricky contest.
Rajnath, who is facing a four-cornered fight, has two tasks at hand - first to maintain legacy of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and second to ensure a victory margin matching with his political stature.
Ever since the Ram Temple movement, BJP has never lost the Lucknow seat. People of the city had elected Vajpayee for five-times on the trot from 1991 to 2004. Rajnath, a sitting MP from Ghaziabad, is facing challenge from former UP Congress state president and sitting MLA Rita Bahuguna Joshi.
Joshi contested the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, but lost to Lalji Tandon of BJP by a margin of 37,000 votes. Minister of State in Akhilesh Yadav government Abhishek Mishra and minister in previous BSP government Nakul Dubey are also in the fray.
In Kanpur, Union Coal Minister Sriprakash is facing stiff competition from former BJP national president Murli Manohar Joshi, who has been shifted from holy city to the industrial city after Narendra Modi decided to contest from Varanasi. Election in Bundelkhand has heated up with the entry of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and sitting BJP MLA from Charkhari Uma Bharti.
Bharti is pitted against Union Minister of State for Rural Development Pradeep Jain Aditya, who would be trying to retain his seat. Bharti, who is banking largely on a Modi wave, is promising to create a separate Bundelkhand state within three years of being voted to power.
In Barabanki, Chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Castes P L Punia is banking on the development works done by him in the area. Union Minister of State for Human Resource Jitin Prasada is facing contest from former MP Dawood Ahmad of BSP in Dhaurahra seat. This phase is specially important for Congress as out of 22 seats won by the party in 2009 polls, six were from this phase.
SP has 4, BSP has three and BJP has only one seat from these 14 seats in 2009.