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UP election results seen too close to call as campaigning ends

LiveMint logoLiveMint 06-03-2017 Anuja

New Delhi: Campaigning for the seventh and final phase of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, which some analysts have termed too close to call, ended on Monday.

The two-month-long electioneering process will culminate on Saturday when counting for Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur will take place. On Thursday, exit polls will be published and telecast after 5.30pm.

The stakes are high in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest and most populous state, where chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, in alliance with the Congress, is facing a tough challenge by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

UP elections: Why it is a tall order for BJP, BSP to beat the Congress-SP alliance

If it wins, the Samajwadi Party will become the first party after more than three decades to retain power in Uttar Pradesh for a second successive term. The BJP, whose campaign has been led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is seeking power in a state it last formed government more than 14 years ago.

The ongoing polls are also a test of Mayawati’s influence in state politics which had started to diminish after the BSP failed to win a single seat out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 general election. The BJP won 71 of the seats, and clinched a majority on its own in the Lower House of Parliament. In the nearly month-long and often-bitter campaign, the major contestants have spared no effort, holding public rallies and roadshows backed by an advertising blitzkrieg.

With the promise of development and good governance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out especially to farmers of the state, promising a farm loan waiver if the BJP comes to power in Uttar Pradesh. He also reiterated the commitment of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to doubling the incomes of farmers by 2022. Modi also promised to improve the law and order situation in the state, which was a key election issue.

UP elections: Why the rhetoric of caste vs development rings hollow

“BJP could restore law and order in the state where women are afraid to go out of their homes unless accompanied by a male member of the family,” Modi said in his last public address before campaigning ended. Modi was addressing a public meeting in the Rohaniya assembly constituency close to Varanasi. Forty seats in the 403-member UP assembly are up for grabs in the final phase of polling, the campaign for which saw Akhilesh Yadav address at least 35 public meetings in the last five days in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Mayawati addressed a press conference on the last day of campaigning on Monday. Reiterating that the BSP will form a majority government in this election, Mayawati said the BJP and the SP-Congress alliance were now fighting for the second and third positions.

“The BJP, which was till now trying to woo voters by its schemes, increased the price of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) cylinders on 1 March as now they know that they are not winning the election,” she said in Lucknow on Monday. The BSP chief also accused Modi and BJP president Amit Shah of attempting to polarize the electorate.

A leap of faith will decide Uttar Pradesh

“When they (Modi and Shah) saw their political future is in danger, they started giving the election a communal and religious colour,” she said.

On Monday, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi too addressed a public rally in Sujangarh, Jaunpur. Gandhi took a dig at the Prime Minister, who he said had “grown old” and “must be feeling tired.” Gandhi made a pitch for a “government of youth” in UP, referring to the SP-Congress alliance.

PTI contributed to this story.

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