Lucknow, Feb 11: Polling for the second phase of the assembly elections in India’s most populous and politically vital state Uttar Pradesh began on Saturday with voters in 59 constituencies spread across nine districts deciding the fate 1,098 candidates.
A total of nearly 2 crore electorates are registered in the districts, with over 1 crore of them male and 87 lakhs female.
More than 20,000 polling booths have been set up for the phase.
While the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the opposition Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress are fielding candidates for all the 59 assembly seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is contesting in 55 constituencies, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in 20.
Other parties and independent candidates total at 846, according to the Election Commission's data.
Many of these constituencies, that fall in th eastern region of the state, like Azamgarh, Mau, Balia, Gazipur have a significant presence of Muslim voters, especially the backward Ansari weavers, a vote bank that the Congress has tried to woo aggressively.
The Mulayam Singh Yadav-led SP is also hoping to win back the Muslim voters in the elections after a dismal show in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections for supposedly having allied with Kalyan Singh of the Jan Kranti Party and formerly BJP.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) is also trying his hand at the region highlighting the similarities of eastern UP to western parts of his state, where he enjoys a goodwill for his administrative work.
Manwhile the UP Chief Minister-led BSP hopes to repeat the results of the 2007 polls when it bagged the majority of the seats in the region due to its strong grasp over the backward class voters and an anti-incumbency sentiment towards the then ruling SP.
In the last phase, an overwhelming 62.7 percent of the total 1.7 crore voters cast their ballots on Wednesday (Feb 8).
While the second phase of polls are on Saturday, Uttar Pradesh will go to vote in five more stages with voting dates falling on Feb 15, Feb 19, Feb 23, Feb 28 and Mar 3.
Counting of votes is on March 6 along with all four other states that are going to elections this year.