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Uttar Pradesh Polls Enter Last Leg, Span Modi’s Varanasi & Akhilesh’s Azamgarh

Azamgarh, Mau, Jaunpur, Ghazipur, Chandauli, Varanasi, Mirzapur, Bhadohi and Sonbhadra districts are going to polls.

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As the month-long political campaign for the seven-phase Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections concludes, the terminal phase of the UP poll marathon went to polls on Monday, 7 March. The fate of 613 candidates from 54 constituencies spanning nine districts will be decided in this phase.

The voting commenced at 7 am and will continue till 6 pm, with the counting of votes slated to take place on 10 March.

The districts going to polls are Azamgarh, Mau, Jaunpur, Ghazipur, Chandauli, Varanasi, Mirzapur, Bhadohi, and Sonbhadra.

In the 2017 polls, 36 of these 54 seats were won by the BJP and its allies, the SP had won 11 seats and BSP had bagged 6 seats.

The focal point of Monday's polls will be Varanasi, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition had won all eight Assembly segments in 2017, bestriding the "Modi wave".

The region witnessed prominent leaders canvassing for their respective parties over the weekend with Modi coming out for the BJP, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav making an appearance with Jayant Chaudhary and Trinamool's Mamata Banerjee, and Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi campaigning for the Congress.

Here's all you need to know about this phase of polling:

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Key Seats, Bastions & Battlegrounds

Varanasi: With Varanasi being Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Lok Sabha constituency, the BJP has had an exceptional influence in the district since 2014 general elections.

In 2017, the BJP had managed to win all eight assembly constituencies in the district, namely Pindra, Ajagara, Shivpur, Rohaniya, Varanasi North, Varanasi South, Varanasi Cantt, and Sevapur.

Azamgarh: Dominated by Yadavs and Muslims, Azamgarh district has traditionally been an SP stronghold and includes the following 10 Assembly segments: Atrauliya, Gopalpur, Sagri, Mubarakpur, Azamgarh, Nizamabad, Phoolpur Pawai, Didarganj, Lalganj, and Mehnagar.

The party had managed to hold on to five out of ten of these seats in 2017, even when the BJP swept the polls.

Malhani Assembly Constituency: An SP bastion, the constituency falls under Jaunpur district and will see a battle between BJP's Krishna Pratap Singh and incumbent MLA Lucky Yadav. With PM Modi campaigning for Singh, the SP will have to prove its mettle on the seat. For the SP, it is a matter of prestige as the seat was once held by stalwart Parasnath Yadav.

In 2020, SP's Lucky Yadav, contesting the bypoll after his father Parasnath Yadav's death, won the seat by defeating Independent candidate Dhananjaya Singh with a margin of over 4,600 votes. This time again, the seat is seeing a high-pitched battle with former Jaunpur MP KP Singh contesting on the BJP ticket.

Mau Sadar Assembly Constituency: Held by jailed mafia don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari since 1996, the seat will see a contest between his son Abbas Ansari on a Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) ticket, BJP's Ashok Singh, and BSP's Bheem Rajbhar.

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Key Candidates & Prominent Faces

Lucky Yadav: Lucky Yadav is the son of Parasnath Yadav, a late former MP who was considered close to SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, and is contesting from his father's traditional bastion of Malhani in Jaunpur. The SP founder even turned up to campaign for Yadav in the constituency.

Neelkanth Tiwari: The sitting MLA from Varanasi South assembly seat, Neelkanth Tiwari – the Uttar Pradesh Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Religious Affairs – is looking to score his second consecutive win. In 2017, he had defeated former Congress MP Rajesh Mishra.

Om Prakash Rajbhar: The president of the SBSP, an SP ally, Om Prakash Rajbhar had contested the 2017 election as a BJP partner. Rajbhar had won the seat in 2017 by defeating BSP's Kalicharan Rajbhar who is contesting as BJP candidate this time.

Dara Singh Chauhan: Chauhan had tendered his resignation from the Yogi Adityanath Cabinet to join the Samajwadi Party in January 2022. He is in the fray from Ghosi seat in Mau district.

Abbas Ansari: Son of Mukhtar Ansari, the ex gangster-turned-politician from Purvanchal, Abbas Ansari will contest the Mau Sadar assembly seat on a Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) ticket. Mukhtar Ansari has held on to the seat since 1996.

He is up against BJP’s Ashok Singh and BSP’s Bheem Rajbhar.

For Monday's elections, the BJP has put forth 48 candidates on its party symbol, with its allies Apna Dal (S) and Nishad Party fielding three each.

Meanwhile, out of the 54 seats, the Samajwadi Party has fielded 45 candidates on its symbol, with its allies SBSP and Apna Dal (K) fielding seven and two candidates, respectively.

A total of 613 candidates will be battling in the seventh and final phase of the UP polls, which will see an electorate consisting of around 2.06 voters. Out of the 54 seats at stake, 11 are reserved for the Scheduled Castes and two for the Scheduled Tribes.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  PM Narendra Modi   BJP   Akhilesh Yadav 

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