Lucknow - Voting across 56 constituencies, including Lucknow, in the fourth phase of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections Sunday picked up pace after a slow start to record a 57 percent turnout, officials said. Polling was peaceful barring stray incidents.
The turnout was a marked improvement over the 2007 state elections when the turnout stood at 43.84 percent including an all-time low of 36 percent in Lucknow, where Sunday it shot up to about 51 percent.
In Rae Bareli, the parliamentary constituency of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, the voter turnout was also recorded at about 59 percent.
"The voter turnout in the fourth phase of Uttar Pradesh's assembly elections, across 56 constituencies, was recorded at 57 percent," Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi told reporters in New Delhi.
As many as 1.74 crore voters in the constituencies spread over 11 districts in mostly central Uttar Pradesh were eligible to caste their ballots for 976 candidates in the fourth phase.
The turnout Sunday was in line with 58.81 percent in phase one on Feb 8, 58.23 percent in phase two on Feb 11 and 57.25 percent in phase three on Feb 15, EC officials said.
State chief electoral officer Umesh Sinha expressed his satisfaction at the voters' enthusiasm.
"I am glad that voting has gone way ahead of the last election. In fact, that was the endeavour of the election commission," he said.
Long queues were visible at polling centres not only in the older parts of Lucknow but in the rest of the city with the youth in particular comming out to vote in large numbers.
In the city, voting in a polling booth in Alambagh area was suspended some time after a returning officer died of a massive heart attack.
Rajjan Lal, was at booth number 128 when he suddenly complained of uneasiness and collapsed on the ground, police said. He died on the spot.
In Farrukhabad, union Law Minister Salman Khurshid's wife and Congress candidate Louise Khursheed had a narrow escape Sunday evening as a group of people pelted stones at a polling booth for allegedly promoting bogus voting, after close of polling.
In the first incident of its kind in the ongoing polls, all voters at the Patna polling station in Tindwari assembly constituency of Banda district boycotted polls, protesting lack of development.
Stating the boycott was 100 percent, poll panel sources further said the sector magistrate of the area verified to the poll panel that the voters faced no intimidation to stay away from casting their ballot.
The phase was an acid test for the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which had bagged 25 of the 56 seats in 2007. Samajwadi Party followed with a tally of 14. Of the remaining, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress had bagged seven seats each and two seats had gone to independents.
For the BJP, the absence of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was pinching, specially in Lucknow, which he had represented in parliament till 2009. However, party leaders were still euphoric at their chances.
"Voters are coming out in larger numbers simply to express their anger against the misdeeds of the ruling BSP as well as SP, whose misgovernance they have experienced just prior to Mayawati's," former BJP president and former UP chief minister Rajnath Singh told reporters shortly after casting his vote here.
"BJP is all set to get a majority in this state," said BJP's chief campaigner Uma Bharti.
The Congress was also upbeat about its chances and attributed the high turnout to the efforts of Rahul Gandhi.
"The higher voter turnout is all attributable to the painstaking campaign carried out Rahul Gandhi and I have reason to believe that the youth of this state is impressed by him. Therefore, the Congress is all set for a major stride and return to power in this state," said party state chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi.