The third phase of the seven-phase elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP) began on Sunday, 20 February, with 59 Assembly seats in 16 districts going to the polls.
The voting began at 7 am and will continue till 6 pm, and the final counting of votes will take place on 10 March.
The 16 districts where the elections are being held are Auriyya, Etah, Etawah, Farukkhabad, Firozabad, Hamirpur, Hathras, Jalaun, Jhansi, Kannauj, Kanpur Dehat, Kanpur Nagar, Kasganj, Lalitpur, Mahoba, and Mainpuri.
Sunday’s polls in UP’s ‘Yadav belt’ will see a key battle play out between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) alliance.
There are a total of 627 candidates contesting in the 59 constituencies.
In the 2012 elections, the SP had won 37 out of these 59 seats. This changed drastically in 2017 when the BJP won 49 seats and the SP had to settle with nine. The Congress, meanwhile, had bagged one seat, and the Bahujan Samaj Party drew a blank.
Here's all you need to know about this phase of polling.
Strongholds & Key Constituencies
The 59 constituencies going to the polls on 20 February are spread across 16 districts situated in western UP, the Awadh region, and Bundelkhand.
Out of these 16 districts, eight had been strongholds of Mulayam Singh Yadav's family till 2017.
The electorate in Mainpuri, Etawah, Firozabad, Kasganj, Etah, Farrukhabad, Kannauj, and Auraiya still comprises a considerable population of Yadavs, making these regions the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP's forte.
The key constituencies in this phase are as follows:
Karhal: Mainpuri's Karhal Assembly constituency has been a stronghold of the SP since 1993, and was among the few seats retained by the party in 2017 when the BJP swept the elections. The constituency also assumes special significance in light of SP chief Akhilesh Yadav's first-ever nomination in the Assembly polls.
Jaswantnagar: Also a Yadav family forte that the BJP seeks to capture, Etawah's Jaswantnagar seat elected Mulayam Singh Yadav for four consecutive terms till 1993. His younger brother Shivpal Yadav has been ruling the constituency since 1996.
Hathras: This phase will also see voting in Hathras, a constituency reserved for candidates belonging to the Schedules Castes, where the tragic gang-rape of a Dalit woman in 2020 launched UP into months of unrest. The SP has referred to the Hathras assault case in their campaign multiple times, with Akhilesh Yadav observing 'Hathras ki Beti Smriti Divas' every month.
Sirsaganj: This constituency is a flashpoint between the two parties as it will witness a contest between the SP and an SP-turncoat, Hari Om Yadav, who has ruled the constituency on a Samajwadi ticket since 2012.
Akhilesh Yadav vs SP Singh Baghel: The Samajwadi Party chief is on one end of the most high-profile contest of Phase 3, running against Union Minister and BJP candidate SP Singh Baghel.
Shivpal Yadav vs Vivek Shakya: Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) chief and former Uttar Pradesh minister Shivpal Yadav has been fielded against BJP worker Vivek Shakya from Jaswantnagar seat in Etawah district, which has been his stronghold.
Anil Kumar Dohare vs Asim Arun: The SP's Anil Kumar Dohare, who won the Kannauj seat in the 2017 polls, is up against the BJP, which has fielded former IPS officer Asim Arun. Arun, who had joined the ruling party in January, has served as the Kanpur Police Commissioner and hails from Kannauj.
Hari Om Yadav vs Sarvesh Singh: Hari OM Yadav, an SP turncoat, is a relative of Mulayam Singh Yadav, who joined the BJP weeks ahead of the elections. The SP has fielded Sarvesh Singh against him.
Braj Mohan Rahi vs Anjula Mahor: In Hathras, which is a major flashpoint between the BJP and the SP, the ruling party has fielded first-time candidate and former mayor of Agra, Anjula Mahaur, while the SP has nominated Braj Mohan. In 2017, the BJP's Hari Shankar Mahor had defeated Mohan.