Over 43 per cent polling was reported till 3 pm in 14 Lok Sabha constituencies of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, where Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Union minister Maneka Gandhi are among the key contestants.

While Ambedkar Nagar Lok Sabha constituency recorded the highest turnout of 47.60 per cent, enthusiasm among voters was the least in Phulpur, where 36.80 per cent cast their ballots.

A state election office spokesperson said the average poll percentage was 43.35 per cent.

Altogether, 177 candidates are contesting in these 14 constituencies, where 2.53 crore people are eligible to vote at 16,998 polling centres.

In Sultanpur, BJP leader Maneka Gandhi and BSP candidate Chandra Bhadra Singh had a face-off. Gandhi warned him that hooliganism wouldn’t work, but Singh dismissed her charge.

“In Azamgarh, a presiding officer was removed following complaints by SP workers. A report has been sought from the district magistrate,” state Chief Electoral Officer L Venkateshwar Lu said.

The officer said there had been complaints about EVMs and VVPAT devices, and the machines have been replaced.

Polling was underway in Sultanpur, Pratapgarh, Phulpur, Allahabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Shrawasti, Domariyaganj, Basti, Sant Kabirnagar, Lalganj, Jaunpur, Machhlishahr, Bhadohi and Azamgarh constituencies in Purvanchal region of the state.

The Bharatiya Janata Party had won 13 of these 14 constituencies in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. The only exception was Azamgarh, which was won by SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The BJP, however, had to bite the dust in the by-polls in Phulpur and Gorakhpur constituencies last year.

While the anti-BJP alliance would like to retain its grip over both the seats, the saffron party is looking to take sweet revenge from the Opposition in this round.

In Azamgarh, Akhilesh Yadav is trying to retain his father’s seat against Bhojpuri film star Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’ of the BJP.

The SP president’s decision to contest from his father’s bastion is being touted as a move to consolidate the Yadav, Dalit and Muslim voters in the Purvanchal region of the state.

Sultanpur, too, is seeing an interesting contest as the BJP has fielded Maneka Gandhi for the seat, which was won by her son, Varun Gandhi, in 2014.

The seat appears tricky for Maneka Gandhi as the BJP strategists are relying on a division of the Congress and the SP-BSP-RLD alliance votes, besides possible counter polarisation of non-Yadav and non-Jatav Dalit and OBC votes.