Polling underway for 14 LS seats in UP

Lucknow, May 20 (UNI) Polling for 14 seats in the fifth phase of Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh, which will seal the fate of several stalwarts including Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Union Minister Smriti Irani and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, began on Monday amid tight security arrangements.

Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Navdeep Rinwa said that the polling which began at 7 am will continue till 6 pm. He said that besides 14 Lok Sabha seats, by-poll for Lucknow East assembly, which fell vacant following the demise of sitting Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Ashutosh Tandon Gopalji, is also being held.

He said that the the 14 Lok Sabha seats where polling is being held in this phase are Mohanlalganj, Lucknow, Rae Bareli, Amethi, Jalaun, Jhansi, Hamirpur, Banda, Fatehpur, Kaushambi, Barabanki, Faizabad, Kaiserganj and Gonda Lok Sabha seats. “Out of these, 10 seats are of general category and 4 seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes,” he said.

Rinwa said that these 14 Lok Sabha constituencies are spread over 21 districts of Lucknow, Sitapur, Rae Bareli, Amethi, Sultanpur, Jalaun, Jhansi, Kanpur Dehat, Lalitpur, Hamirpur, Mahoba, Banda, Chitrakoot, Fatehpur, Kaushambi, Pratapgarh, Barabanki, Ayodhya, Gonda, Bahraich and Balrampur.

He said that a total 2.7 crore voters, comprising 1.43 male and 1.27 crore female, are eligible to decide the fate of 144, including 13 women candidates are in fray in this phase. He said that polling will be held at 28,688 polling booths spread over 17,128 polling centres in these constituencies.

The CEO said that to keep a close vigil on the polling, the commission has deployed three special observers, 14 general observers, nine police observers and 15 expenditure observers. “Apart from this 2,416 sector magistrates, 327 zonal magistrates, 549 static magistrates and 3,619 micro observers have also been deployed.” he said.

Meanwhile, the police sources said that to ensure free and fair election 9,916 Inspectors, sub-Inspectors, 70,862 head constables and constables, 30 companies of PAC and 234 companies of CAPF have been deployed.

Fate of several political stalwarts, including Defence Minister, Union Minister Smriti Irani and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi will be sealed in this phase.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is seeking a third term from Lucknow, which had been the bastion of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), since 1991. He is being challenged by sitting MLA Ravidas Mehrotra of Samajwadi Party (SP). Rajnath had been elected from Lucknow, which was once represented by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, twice – in 2014 and 2019.

The most interesting election is being witnessed in Rae Bareli where former Congress president Rahul Gandhi is being challenged by the minister in Yogi Adityanath government, Dinesh Pratap Singh. In the 2019 elections Rahul Gandhi lost to BJP’s Smriti Irani in Amethi.

This time he has moved to another traditional seat of Congress Rae Bareli after his mother Sonia Gandhi was appointed to Rajya Sabha. His sister and party’s national general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has been extensively campaigning in support of Rahul.

Congress Parliamentary Committee chairperson and former MP Sonia Gandhi made an emotional appeal in the favour of her son Rahul, but the issue which dominates the Gandhi family’s bastion now is local versus outsider.

Im Amethi, Union Minister Smriti Irani faces close confidants of Gandhi family and Congress candidate Kishori Lal Sharma. While Smriti Irani defeated Rahul Gandhi from this seat in 2019 general elections, Sharma has a long association with the Gandhi family and he served as the local representative of Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli for almost a decade. It may be mentioned that Sharma’s candidature was announced on the last day of the nomination.

Another interesting contest is being witnessed on Kaisarganj seat where sitting BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh was denied ticket after he got embroiled in controversy related to women wrestlers. While BJP denied ticket to Brij Bhushan, it made his son Karan Bhushan Singh as its nominee.

Karan Bhushan Singh, who is making foray in electoral politics, is pitted against Bhagat Ram Mishra of SP and Narendra Pandey of BSP. It may be noted that Brij Bhushan’s elder son Prateek Bhushan is already an MLA from Gonda Sadar seat.

Union Minister Kaushal Kishore is seeking his third term in the Mohanlalganj Lok Sabha seat. He is facing a challenge from former minister and SP candidate RK Chaudhary and the BSP nominee Rajesh Kumar. Chaudhry, who joined SP, was once the founder member of BSP now led by Mayawati.

In Jhansi, former Union minister and Congress candidate Pradeep Jain Aditya is being challenged by the sitting BJP’s MP Anurag Sharma. The BSP has fielded a new face and student leader on this seat Ravi Prakash Maurya.

On Gonda seat two times sitting BJP MP and erstwhile prince of Mankapur estate Kirti Vardhan Singh is facing challenge from SP candidate Shreya Varma. Shreya is making debut in electoral politics, and she is granddaughter of former Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma.

Beni Prasad who served as the Union Steel Minister in the UPA government was initially the founder member of SP and was very close to party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav. He later parted ways from SP and joined Congress.

In Fatehpur sitting BJP MP Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti is being challenged by former SP state president and party candidate Naresh Uttam Patel. The SP candidate, who was a deputy minister in Mulayam Singh government, is also close to SP chief Akhilesh Yadav.

In Faizabad seat, which has become important for BJP after construction of Lord Ram Temple, sitting MP Lallu Singh is seeking a second term. However, this time he is being challenged by sitting MLA and founding member of SP Awadhesh Prasad.

In Barabanki, Congress has reposed its faith on Tanuj Punia against Rajrani Rawat of BJP. Tanuj Punia, who is son of senior Congress leader PL Punia, lost from here in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

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