LUCKNOW: Voting for 27 seats coming under local authorities' constituencies in the biennial polls for the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council commenced on Saturday.
According to the office of the Uttar Pradesh chief electoral officer, there are 95 candidates in the fray.
Polling will take place at 739 centres, and as many as 1,20,657 voters expected to exercise their franchise.
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Voting will be held for the following local authorities' constituencies -- Moradabad-Bijnor, Rampur-Bareilly, Pilibhit-Shahjahanpur, Sitapur, Lucknow-Unnao, Rae Bareli, Pratapgarh, Sultanpur, Barabanki, Bahraich, Gonda, Faizabad, Basti-Siddharthnagar, Gorakhpur-Maharajganj, Deoria, Azamgarh-Mau, Ballia, Ghazipur, Jaunpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Jhansi-Jalaun-Lalitpur, Kanpur-Fatehpur, Etawah-Farrukhabad, Agra-Firozabad, Meerut-Ghaziabad and Muzaffarnagar-Saharanpur.
These seats are spread over 58 districts in the state.
Voting began at 8 am and will continue till 4 pm.
Counting will take place on April 12.
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Nine MLCs from eight local authorities' constituencies have been elected unopposed.
The constituencies are Budaun, Hardoi, Kheri, Mirzapur-Sonbhadra, Banda-Hamirpur, Aligarh, Bulandshahr and Mathura-Etah-Mainpuri.
Two MLCs were elected unopposed from the Mathura-Etah-Mainpuri local authorities' constituency, while from the rest of the constituencies, one MLC each was elected unopposed.
Following a resounding victory in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the BJP has set its eye on becoming the single-largest party in the state Legislative Council as well by winning a majority of the 36 Upper House seats.
It is an opportunity for the saffron party to enjoy a majority in both the Houses of the Uttar Pradesh Legislature.
In the 100-member Legislative Council, the BJP currently has 34 MLCs, the Samajwadi Party 17 and the Bahujan Samaj Party four.
The Congress, Apna Dal (Sonelal) and NISHAD party have one member each in the House.
The Teachers' group has 2 MLCs, while the independent group ('Nirdal Samooh') and Independents have 1 MLC each.
As many as 38 seats are vacant at present.
Addressing BJP workers a week ago, Chief Minister Adityanath said it was important for the party to win the 36 seats to advance his government's growth agenda without any hurdle.
"Of these 36 seats, the BJP has won nine unopposed. If the party wins all the 36 seats, you can assume that it will have a two-third majority in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council and have no problem in taking forward the development schemes expeditiously," he said.
The voters in this biennial election are village pradhans, members and chairman of block development councils, members and chairman of zila panchayat, and corporators in urban areas.
MLAs and MPs are also voters in this poll.
The Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party have not fielded any candidate in the legislative council polls, making it a straight fight between the BJP and the Samajwadi Party, the principal opposition in the state Assembly.
Of the 36 BJP candidates, five are former Samajwadi Party leaders, who joined the saffron camp on the eve of the February-March state polls.
They are Shailendra Pratap Singh from Sultanpur local authority constituency, C P Chand from the Gorakhpur-Maharajganj local authorities, Ravishankar Singh 'Pappu', the grandson of former prime minister Chandrasekhar, from Ballia local authorities, Rama Niranjan from Jhansi-Jalaun-Lalitpur local authorities and Narendra Bhati from Bulandshahr local authorities.
The Samajwadi Party has declared its candidates for 34 seats, leaving the Meerut-Ghaziabad and Bulandshahr seats for its ally the Rashtriya Lok Dal.
Prominent among those who have been fielded are Dr Kafeel Khan from Deoria, Mashkoor Ahmad from Rampur-Bareilly, sitting MLCs Sunil Kumar Sajan, Rajesh Kumar and Udayveer Singh from Lucknow-Unnao, Barabanki, and Mathura-Etah-Mainpuri seats respectively.
Adityanath has recently quit the Legislative Council seat after getting elected as an MLA from Gorakhpur Urban seat.
With the death of Leader of the Opposition in the Council Ahmad Hasan on February 19 after a prolonged illness, the Samajwadi Party has named Sanjay Lathar to the post.
In the recently-concluded Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the BJP has won 255 seats, while its allies Apna Dal (Sonelal) and NISHAD party have won 12 and six seats respectively.
The Samajwadi Party has won 111 seats, while its ally the Rashtriya Lok Dal has won eight.
The SBSP, another ally of the Samajwadi Party, has won six seats.
The Congress has won two seats, while the BSP has won one seat.