Brisk polling was recorded in the eight Lok Sabha constituencies of western Uttar Pradesh Thursday, with an estimated 40 per cent turnout till 1300 hrs in the first leg of the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls.
Despite hot weather conditions, voters turned out in large numbers and polling was going on peacefully, an official of the state election department said in Lucknow.
Three Union ministers — VK Singh (Ghaziabad), Satyapal Singh (Baghpat) and Mahesh Sharma (Gautam Buddh Nagar) are in the fray in the first phase.
The ruling BJP is making all-out efforts to retain all the eight Lok Sabha seats while the fledgeling SP-BSP-RLD alliance too is going whole hog to upset the saffron party’s apple cart.
Joint Chief Electoral Officer Ramesh Chandra Rai said there was no report of any impersonation, bogus voting, obstruction to polling or violence from anywhere in these constituencies,
Ghaziabad recorded nearly 35 per cent polling, while in Meerut, Bijnor and Saharanpur the turnout was over 40 per cent.
In Muzaffarnagar, BJP MP Sanjeev Baliyan stoked a controversy by demanding that male officials should check the identity of burqa-clad women at poll stations where women personnel have not been posted.
Speaking to reporters in Muzaffarnagar, Baliyan said, “If someone comes in a burqa, whether the same person is coming four or five times, how will you check”.
“Without checking the face, how can you allow anyone to cast vote,” he asked.
“There were no women constables. If there is such a long queue of women voters and there is no woman official in the polling party, then male officials should check “the BJP leader said.
Reacting to it, UP Chief Electoral Officer L Venkateshwarlu told PTI that women officials have been deployed to ascertain the identity of women voters.
“Already there is a mechanism in place that district magistrates have deployed women officials to ascertain the identity of female voters. Wherever there are burqa-clad women voters, women poll officials are posted to ascertain their identity,” he said.
The Congress slammed Baliyan for his remarks.
In the 2014 parliamentary elections, the BJP had won all the eight seats– Saharanpur, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Meerut, Baghpat, Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddh Nagar.
The communally sensitive seat of Muzaffarnagar is witnessing a clash of titans with RLD chief Ajit Singh locking horns with sitting BJP lawmaker Sanjeev Balyan.
For the saffron party, the Kairana parliamentary constituency holds immense significance as it had tasted defeat in the Lok Sabha by-election last year.
In the first phase, 1,50,65,682 voters – 82,24,835 men, 68,39,833 women and 1,014 third gender – are eligible to exercise their franchise in 16,518 booths set up inside 6,716 polling centres to decide the fate of 96 candidates.
Politically crucial Uttar Pradesh sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. Of the 80 seats in UP, SP is contesting on 37 seats, BSP on 38 seats, and the RLD will contest on three seats. UP will have seven-phase polling.