Uttarakhand Elections 2017: Campaigning for February 15 polls ends

Campaigning drew to a close this evening in 67 constituencies of Uttar Pradesh for the second phase of elections as well as in 69 seats in Uttarakhand for the polls on February 15.

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Congress seems to be struggling in terms of development and governance, whereas the BJP is all guns and have claimed to unseat chief minister Harish Rawat government, which is battling corruption charges.(Representative Image: AP)

Campaigning drew to a close this evening in 67 constituencies of Uttar Pradesh for the second phase of elections as well as in 69 seats in Uttarakhand for the polls on February 15. The high-voltage campaigning saw the top brass of the main parties in fray addressing a slew of rallies, roadshows and public meetings in both the states. Uttar Pradesh is witnessing a triangular contest among Samajwadi Party-Congress, BJP and BSP while the fight in Uttarakhand is an interesting one as about a dozen rebel candidates in fray as Independents may upset the calculations of Congress and BJP which have been traditionally the two main contenders for power in the state.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah championed the cause of the saffron party during the campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, the SP-Congress alliance’s charge was spearheaded by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, besides other leaders of the respective parties.

BSP supremo Mayawati wooed the voters addressing one rally after another all by herself, with senior party leader S C Misra chipping in at certain places.

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The 67 constituencies in the state are spread across 11 districts — Saharanpur, Bijnor, Moradabad, Sambhal, Rampur, Bareilly, Amroha, Pilibhit, Kheri, Shahjahanpur and Badaun.

Of the seats at stake, ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) had won 34 in 2012, followed by BSP 18, BJP 10, Congress 3 and others 2.

In Uttarakhand, Modi and Shah held about half a dozen rallies, while Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and Arun Jaitley sought support for their party candidates through public meetings.

In their rallies in neighbouring UP, both Modi and Shah slammed the Congress and SP, saying Rahul ran a campaign against the SP government and wondered what change of heart made them embrace each other now.

Akhilesh and Rahul harped on demonetisation, alleging that Modi’s note ban decision had caused immense hardship to those living in the rural areas.

Keeping in mind that western Uttar Pradesh had vast tracts of agricultural land, Modi played the pro-poor and pro-farmers card and reiterated BJP’s promise of waiving loans of small and marginal farmers and paying the dues of sugarcane growers within 14 days of coming to power.

Interestingly, political bigwigs, including SP patron Mulayam Singh Yadav and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were conspicuous by their absence from the campaign trail in the first two phases of polling.

With the death of BSP candidate from Karnaprayag Kuldip Kanwasi in a road accident yesterday, polling to the seat has been postponed in Uttarakhand where 75,12,559 voters will decide the fate of 628 candidates in the 69 of the 70 seats.

Rahul Gandhi also held two public meetings in Rishikesh and Someshwar besides a 75-km roadshow in Haridwar district which has the maximum number of 11 constituencies in Uttarakhand. Chief Minister Harish Rawat also worked hard holding several public meetings and roadshows on a daily basis to drum up support for his party.

Besides 12 former Congress MLAs contesting this time as BJP candidates, another unique feature this time is Rawat who despite being an MLA from Dharchula in the hills is fighting from two seats — Haridwar (rural) and Kichcha in the plains.

In the second phase of elections in Uttar Pradesh, 795 candidates are in the fray with a maximum of 22 from Barhapur (Bijnor) and a minimum of five nominees from Dhanaura (Amroha).

Prominent contestants include controversial SP minister Azam Khan and his son Abdullah Azam, who are contesting from Rampur and Swar seats respectively, Saif Ali Naqvi, son of former Congress MP Zafar Ali Naqvi, former central minister Jitin Prasada from Tilhar (Shahjahanpur), BJP Legislature Party leader Suresh Kumar Khanna from Shahjahanpur city and state minister Mehboob Ali from Amroha.

The fate of these candidates will be decided by 2.28 crore voters, including over 1.04 crore women.

There will be 14,771 polling centres and 23,693 polling stations in the second phase.

The next five phases of polling will be held on February 19, 23, 27 and on March 4 and 8. Counting of votes will be taken up on March 11.

At her rallies, Mayawati went all out against the SP, alleging that the Akhilesh government had let loose a “reign of terror” in Uttar Pradesh with hooligans committing “utmost atrocities” against women.

The BSP supremo also accused the Modi government of “interfering” with the personal law of Muslims and ending reservations for backward communities in jobs and promised to extend quota benefits to the poor among the upper castes.

Her refrain was that if Muslims wanted to defeat the BJP, they should not waste their votes by backing the SP-Congress alliance.

Development, clearance of cane dues and law-and-order were among the key issues raised by various leaders in the 67 constituencies, with every political party promising to address them if voted to power.

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