LUCKNOW / NEW DELHI: Fifty-nine percent of the 1.56 crore voters in 49 Uttar Pradesh constituencies exercised their franchise in the fifth phase of balloting Thursday, an official said.
Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zuthshi told reporters in New Delhi that the voting percentage in these constituencies was 47.5 percent in 2007.
The polling, with 829 candidates, was peaceful, he said, adding that voters in seven polling stations across four assembly constituencies kept away protesting against lack of drinking water and roads.
The turnout would have gone even higher if more voters had stepped out of their homes in Kanpur, where the polling was 52 percent," Uttar Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha told IANS in Lucknow.
Interestingly, even as the polling remained low in Kanpur, the state's largest city, voters turned out in far larger numbers in smaller towns and rural areas.
"The highest polling was recorded in Lalitpur (the remotest UP district, surrounded by Madhya Pradesh on three sides)," Sinha said.
There was heavy police deployment for this phase of polling, which covered a large part of central UP, better known as the state's badlands. While Sinha remained tight-lipped on the numbers, sources confirmed that more than 800 companies of central paramilitary and state armed police (100-120 personnel each) were in place to ensure a smooth, free and fair poll.
"Every polling booth had at least two paramilitary personnel, two state armed cops plus four homeguards," a top police officer disclosed. He, however, declined to divulge how many BSF, CRPF, ITBP or CISF personnel were detailed for poll duties.
Apart from Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav's home district Etawah, the other districts which voted Thursday were Mainpuri, Firozabad, Etah, Auraiya, Rama Bai Nagar, Kanshi Ram Nagar, Kanpur, Jhansi, Hamirpur, Lalitpur, Mahoba and Jalaun.
This belt was an acid test for Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is believed to command a lot of influence over both Yadavs and other backward classes in the region. Likewise, the prestige of BJP star campaigner Uma Bharti is also at stake because she was specially brought in from neighbouring Madhya Pradesh in the hope of attracting the Lodhi backward caste community, which has a major presence in large parts of Bundelkhand districts that voted.
While Uma Bharti was in the fray from Charkhari in Hamirpur district, Mulayam Singh Yadav's younger brother Shivpal Yadav was contesting from the family bastion of Jaswant Nagar in Etawah.
Uma Bharti was desperately trying to wean away votes from former BJP leader Kalyan Singh, who was struggling to keep his own stock of Lodhis together under the banner of his Rashtriya Kranti Party (RKP). He had even gone to the extent of throwing a challenge to Uma Bharti by fielding a rival member of the caste against her.