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Across Uttar Pradesh, if the Samajwadi Party’s “Kaam Bolta Hai” slogan has to submit to the voters’ acceptability test in real terms, it is in the state’s all 12 districts, stretching from Lucknow to Etawah, from Mainpuri to Sitapur, and others. Regarded as the SP’s bastion, the area witnessed only over 61 percent turnout in the third phase of polls for 69 assembly seats — a low turnout in comparison to what was witnessed during the first and the second phase polls.

The polling percentage was 64.2 in the first phase, while it was over 65 percent in the second phase. As many as 826 candidates from the SP, BSP, BJP, RLD and Independents were in the fray, whose fate were decided by 2.41 crore voters, including 1.10 crore women and 1,026 belonging to the third gender category. In the last assembly polls, the SP had bagged 55 out of 69 seats spread across 12 districts of the area. This time, when the feud within the Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family torn asunder its proverbial unity so much so that the SP patriarch addressed only one or two rallies, including that of his “Chhoti Bahu” Aparna Yadav who contested from Lucknow cantonment, whether or not the party’s bastion remains intact remains to be seen when the results are out on March 11.

For more than three decades, however, the area has remained the SP’s pocket borough because of a large presence of Yadav voters here. Their loyalty towards this party has been undisputed so much so that in the 2012 polls, Dimple Yadav, wife of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, got elected from Kannauj seat unopposed. During the 2014 parliamentary polls, however, under the Modi wave, everything was swept aside, except for Mainpuri and Kannauj Lok Sabha seats. No party, or leader has been able to create any wave this time in this most populous state — where a large number of voters still live in rural areas.

Yet, if the third phase of the polls could be remembered by the people, it would be remembered because of three essential reasons: First, large number of high profile candidates; second, large turnout of women voters and third, Akhilesh Yadav’s refusal to campaign for his uncle, Shivpal Yadav, who contested from Jaswantnagar assembly constituency. Also, it would be remembered as a poll wherein many SP candidates worked at cross purposes. Supporters of Shivpal Yadav were reported to be campaigning against the party’s official candidates.

Star Candidates in Third Phase Polls

Several star candidates were in the fray in the third phase of the seven-phase assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh. While Congress’ former UP chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi was contesting from Lucknow cantonment seat on the BJP ticket, the SP had Aparna Yadav on this prestigious assembly seat.

Shivpal Yadav contested from Jaswantnangar seat, while his son, Anurag Yadav, contested from Lucknow’s Sarojini Nagar seat. BJP’s chief spokesperson of the state, Hriday Narayan Dikshit contested from Bhagwantnagar, while Aushutosh Tandon, the son of senior BJP leader Lalji Tandon contested from Lucknow East. Former BSP MLA and now a known face of the BJP, Brijesh Pathak was fielded from Lucknow Central.

Key Campaigning Issues During Third Phase

While the SP-Congress alliance targetted the BJP and its chief campaigner Narendra Modi for demonetisation of high currency values and non-fulfillment of promises he made during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the saffron party took up issues of rising unemployment graph, farmers’ sufferings and increasing incidents of heinous crimes like murder, rape and abductions to hit at the ruling dispensation.

The BSP, too, raked up “Goonda Raj” issue to hit at the Akhilesh government’s performance in the five years.

The SP, under its “Kaam Bolta Hai” slogan, laid down stress on achievements of the Akhilesh government. It claimed building of Lucknow-Agra expressway, joining 7 of the 12 districts that went to the polls on February 19 as one of its major achievements. The party has already been claiming upcoming Metro Rail in Lucknow as a major achievement of the Akhilesh government.

The BJP, which has not projected a chief ministerial candidate for the Uttar Pradesh assembly election, built the party’s campaign on the performance of the Central government, including its recent notes ban move. The party’s rallying cry was its attempt to eliminate black or undeclared money in the country through the demonetisation move.

However, it was the Congress-led by vice president Rahul Gandhi which made Modi and the BJP squirm in pain after it hit the Prime Minister for his note ban decision. The grand, old party, even though it lacked sufficient vote base, did not hesitate from slamming Modi of betraying people with his “Achchey Din” promise.

Importance of third phase polls

More than anyone else, the third phase of polls is very important for the SP. To regain power, the party would have to show that it is still powerful enough to rewrite the script of the 2012 assembly polls.

If it fails to do that, the party may lose momentum. However, it has to be seen whether the SP’s loss is going to be the BJP or the BSP’s gain.

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