Lucknow: Polling has begun for the second phase of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.
In this phase, nearly 2.02 crore voters will decide the fate of 586 contestants in nine districts that comprises 55 Assembly constituencies.
The nine districts where polling is being held are Saharanpur, Bijnore, Moradabad, Rampur, Bareilly, Amroha, Sambhal, Badaun and Shahjahanpur.
Six of these districts are dominated by a Muslim population ranging between 34.5 per cent and 50 per cent and touching 65-70 per cent in some constituencies.
The other dominant castes include the Brahmins and Vaishya, though Jats and Dalits too have a sizeable presence in about a dozen-odd constituencies.
In 2017, the BJP had won 38 of the 55 seats, with SP clinching 15 seats and the Congress winning only two. The Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party had failed to open its account in the region.
The districts in this phase, interestingly, figure prominently in the Yogi Adityanath government’s list of ‘One district, One product’ (ODOP).
There is the wood work of Saharanpur, brassware of Moradabad, knives of Rampur and cane furniture of Bareilly that is on the top of the ODOP list.
Though the region is facing multiple issues of law and order, farm law protests, stray cattle which damages the crops, price rise and unemployment, the voting is expected to be more or less on communal and caste lines.
A prominent contestant in this phase is Mohd Azam Khan, who is the SP candidate from Rampur. Azam Khan is contesting the elections from jail and his entire campaign has been run by his wife Tanzeen Fatima and son Abdullah Azam, who is contesting the neighbouring Suar seat.
The SP is banking on sympathy for the jailed leader and his family to ensure success on Rampur and Suar seats.
BJP’s Suresh Khanna is seeking his ninth term as legislator from Shahjahanpur. He has been winning polls since 1989.
Meanwhile, Chief Electoral Officer Ajay Kumar Shukla has said that adequate steps have been taken to ensure free, fair and peaceful voting.
“Voting on 23,404 booths, under 12,544 polling centres, is taking place between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.,” he said.