Zee News

The third round of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections on Wednesday saw long queues at polling booths from early morning, with 34.7 percent of 1.77 crore voters exercising their franchise till 1 pm, officials said. Polling in the 56 assembly constituencies begun at 7 am.

Chief Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha was confident that polling would go 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.

Voting was on in the high-profile district of Amethi (re-christened as Chattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Nagar), the parliamentary seat of Congress star campaigner Rahul Gandhi. Balloting is also being held in the other Gandhi family bastion Sultanpur as well the traditional Nehru-Gandhi home Allahabad.

Among the other districts that have gone to the polls are 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 is being determined by 1.77 crore voters at 18,374 polling stations, where 31,400 electronic voting machines are 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 am.

The voter turnout was, however, stated to be relatively low in some areas as 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 has 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 have criminal cases pending against them.

According to a report of the National Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms, no political party has refrained from fielding those with criminal antecedents.

Samajwadi Party (SP) tops the list with 24 of its 48 nominees having several criminal cases pending against them. The Congress party has 14 of 48, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 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 has one out of six who have criminal background.

The seven-phase elections began Feb 8 and end March 3. The votes will be counted March 6.

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