LUCKNOW, Feb 15 (IANS): The third round of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections ended on a peaceful note Wednesday with an estimated 57-58 percent of the 1.77 crore electorate in 56 constituencies exercising their franchise, officials said.
Polling in the 56 assembly constituencies began at 7 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m.
Chief Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha told IANS that the turnout was an estimated 57-58 percent at the end of day, far higher than the 42.6 percent turnout in the last assembly elections in 2007. While the first phase saw a turnout of 62 percent, the second was also high at 59 percent.
Elections were held in the high-profile districts of Amethi (rechristened Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Nagar), the parliamentary seat of Congress star campaigner Rahul Gandhi, as well as Sultanpur, the other Gandhi family bastion, and the traditional Nehru-Gandhi home Allahabad.
Among the other districts that went to the polls were Varanasi, Jaunpur, Mirzapur, Bhadohi (renamed Sant Ravidas Nagar), Kaushambhi, Sonbhadra and Chandauli – most of which are situated along the banks of the Ganga river.
The fate of 1,018 candidates vying for the 56 seats at stake was determined by 1.77 crore voters at 18,374 polling stations, where 31,400 electronic voting machines were in place.
Long queues were reported from most of the places, including Amethi, where people were seen making a beeline for polling booths well before 7 a.m.
The voter turnout was, however, stated to be relatively low in some areas like Mirzapur, Chandauli and Sonbhadra, bordering Madhya Pradesh, where Maoists have a considerable presence.
Besides Maoists, the presence of a number of candidates with criminal backgrounds had prompted the Election Commission to deploy additional police force in the sensitive areas.
Nearly 31 percent of candidates fielded by political parties for the third phase had criminal cases pending against them.
According to a report of the National Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms, all political parties were guilty.
Samajwadi Party (SP) topped the list with 24 of its 48 nominees having several criminal cases pending against them. The Congress party had 14 of 48, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had 13 of 47, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) 12 of 49, Janata Dal-United six of 24, Bundelkhand Congress four of 13, Peace Party two of 12 and Apna Dal had one of six with a criminal background.
The seven-phase elections began Feb 8 and end March 3. The votes will be counted March 6.