After a month-long fierce political battle, the much-awaited results of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls will be declared on Thursday.
The counting of votes will start at 8 am on Thursday and continue till its completion.The electorally-crucial state witnessed a multi-cornered contest with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Samajwadi Party (SP), Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) as prime contenders.
Anupriya Patel-led Apna Dal (Sonelal) has been part of the BJP's alliance and contested in 18 seats. Sanjay Nishad-led Nishad Party also contested the UP polls in alliance with BJP.On the other hand, SP formed an alliance with Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).
Further, OP Rajbhar-led Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), a former BJP ally, also grabbed the hands of SP.In the 403-member Uttar Pradesh assembly, the majority mark is 202 and the exit polls predicted that the BJP is poised to comfortably return to power with its allies for an unprecedented second term with most of them stating that the party's tally would be less than that in 2017 elections when it had scored a landslide victory.
The SP which fought the polls with RLD and some other parties would improve its performance, the exit polls predicted.
Even after the conclusion of voting, UP's poll fever went high on Tuesday with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav alleging manipulation of electronic voting machines. SP workers staged protests in Varanasi over the issue.
Following this, Election Commission ordered action against Varanasi Additional District Magistrate.Looking back to the 2017 Assembly polls, BJP along with its alliance partners garnered 325 seats. Apna Dal and OP Rajbhar's Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) were part of the BJP+ alliance.
BJP alone had won 312 seats whereas Apna Dal got nine and SBSP bagged four seats.SP, which held the government then, reduced to 47 seats. Notably, SP and Congress contested the 2017 elections together and Congress could only manage to get seven seats. Further, BSP had bagged just 19 seats in that election while RLD won just one seat.
Now, the constituency that garnered most of the limelight in this election is Ayodhya, the reason being the construction of the Ram Mandir. With the development of the temple town and the sentiments of Hindu voters regarding "Ram", BJP finds itself in a relatively comfortable position in this region than its contenders, especially the Samajwadi Party.
Further, Karhal turned out to a high-profile seat as SP chief Akhilesh Yadav contested from the constituency. Similarly, Gorakhpur Urban was also caught attention as Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath contested from the seat.When it comes to key issues in this election, farmers' protest, job losses among migrant labourers, unemployment and most-importantly stray cattle menace may have hounded the ruling BJP leading to a jerky ride for the party.
Further, some sort of anti-incumbency factor was believed to exist that might reflect on the ballot box. However, BJP was banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's charismatic image, double-engine rhetoric, free ration during the COVID pandemic and PM Awas Yojana.
On the other hand, Akhilesh Yadav-led SP was eying on youth electorates besides its traditional game of consolidation of Yadav and Muslim vote bank. Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM which was also in the fray may prove to be a spoiler in SP's social engineering when it comes to Muslim voters.
BSP supremo Mayawati who appeared to be on relatively backfoot in terms of aggressive campaigning was relying on its core Dalit vote bank. As Priyanka Gandhi Vadra steered Congress' power-packed campaigns, the party has hoped that the "Ladki hoon lad sakti hoon" campaign would mobilize women voters bringing a good share of votes.
Ahead of the counting of votes, the Additional Director General of Police (law and order) on Wednesday said that Uttar Pradesh police have ramped up the police presence and actions will be taken against those disturbing peace on the day of results."
For March 10, we have deployed about 70,000 civil police workers, 245 company - paramilitary forces and 69 company PSE commanders. We have ensured peaceful voting, we will ensure peaceful counting also, said Prashant Kumar, UP ADG (Law and Order).
Meanwhile, the state Excise government has prohibited the sale and operation of liquor in the entire state on the day of the result.Assembly elections were held in Uttar Pradesh from February 10 to March 7 in seven phases to elect all 403 members of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly. The votes will be counted and the results will be declared on March 10.