Over 50 per cent polling was reported till 5 pm in 14 Lok Sabha constituencies of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, an official said.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Union minister Maneka Gandhi are among the key contestants in the state in the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha polls.

While Ambedkar Nagar Lok Sabha constituency recorded the highest turnout of 55.24 per cent, enthusiasm among voters was least in Phulpur, where 46 per cent exercised their franchise. The average poll percentage is 50.63 per cent, a state election office spokesperson said.

In total, 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, and a report has been sought from the district magistrate,” state Chief Electoral Officer L Venkateshwar Lu said.

The officer said there were complaints about electronic voting machines (EVMs) and VVPAT devices, and the machines have been replaced.

In Bhadohi, BJP MLA Dinanath Bhaskar allegedly beat up a presiding officer in the Aurai assembly segment, accusing the official of deliberately slowing the polling process.

District election officer Rajendra Prasad and Superintendent of Police Rajesh S said the incident took place at a primary school in Lakshmana village, where the BJP MLA and four other people started arguing with the presiding officer (Radheyshyam Tiwari).

“Subsequently, the BJP MLA and the people accompanying him beat up the presiding officer, injuring him. The injured presiding officer was sent to hospital, and another presiding officer was posted there,” district election officer Rajendra Prasad said.

The SP said that a case is being registered against the BJP MLA and the four others.

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 and he is up against Bhojpuri film star and BJP candidate Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’.

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 state’s Purvanchal region.

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 Gandhi as 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.