Barabanki gets the chills, slow polling in first hours

February 8th, 2012 - 1:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Bahujan Samaj Party Barabanki (Uttar Pradesh), Feb 8 (IANS) The enthusiastic first time voter and the loyal Dalit were out but many others stayed inside their homes Wednesday, waiting for the chill and damp to abate before going out to cast their votes in the first phase of the staggered Uttar Pradesh elections.

Very little activity was visible on thoroughfares and streets in Barabanki, barely 35 km from state capital Lucknow, which is otherwise known to be politically very vibrant.

In the first two hours of polling, which commenced at 7 a.m., barely 150 voters dared to step out of their homes in the cold and rainy weather at the Puremoti primary school here. Polling ends at 5 p.m.

But there were also those undeterred by the cold.

First time voter 20-year-old Anita seemed to be undaunted by the inclement weather and was the first to arrive at the polling station. “This is the first time that I have got the opportunity to vote. Therefore, I decided to come out of my house before anybody else. Because my aim is to elect not just one local MLA but a good leadership for the state.”

The other chunk of early voters seemed to be drawn largely from the Dalit community who are largely perceived to be supporters of the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) headed by Mayawati.

Suresh Gautam, local BSP coordinator who was among the first few to turn up at the polling centre, told IANS: “Our voter does not worry about good or bad weather. And you can see that most people who are here at the polling centre are supporters of the BSP.”

Prominent among the early voters at the school was P.L. Punia, local Congress MP who is also chairman of the National Comission for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes. He, however, sought to contradict the BSP coordinator’s claim about the bulk of the turnout being in favour of BSP.

“Gone are the days when every Dalit was perceived as a BSP supporter. The large number of Dalits who have come out to vote today are Congress supporters,” said Punia.

He went on to add: “You cannot ignore the fact that this entire area gave six Congress members of parliament in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. And they have been working in the last two years to further broaden the base of the party.”

With 862 candidates in the fray, Barabanki constituency has the maximum number of contestants at 26 and Mahmoodabad the least with eight.

Among the other important constituencies are Mahasi and Matera in Bahraich, Ayodhya in Faizabad, Sitapur, Kushinagar, Mubarakpur in Azamgarh and Gazipur.

The last phase of the elections will be held on March 3 and the votes counted March 6.

A total of 1.70 crore people are eligible to vote in this round.

Prominent among those who are in the fray in this first phase are the sons of two Congress MPs, Jagdambika Pal and Beni Prasad Verma, who is also the union steel minister. While Abhiskek Pal is contesting from Basti, Rakesh Verma is from Dariyabad.

This phase is also seen as an acid test for Congress star campaigner Rahul Gandhi who has travelled and campaigned extensively along with Beni Prasad Verma in this area that has a substantial OBC vote. Verma is regarded as a popular face among OBCs.

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