Lucknow, Feb 11: Polling for 73 assembly constituencies spread across 15 districts in western Uttar Pradesh began at 7.00 am on Saturday amid tight security. In the first of the seven-phased staggered elections in the state, a total of 839 candidates are in the fray. Police officials said adequate security arrangements have been made for the keenly-fought contest.
"Free and fair polls is our priority and we would urge people to go out in large numbers and take part in this beautiful festival of democracy" an Election Commission official told IANS.
The maximum number of candidates (26) are contesting from Agra south. The least number of candidates -- six each -- are from Hastinapur, Iglas and Loni seats.
Amid heightened fears of poll violence, already proved true by a spate of incidents in the past few days, an unprecedented security deployment has been made in sensitive areas -- Shamli, Aligarh, Muzaffarnagar, Mathura, Bulandshahr and Agra. In all 826 companies of central forces have been stationed for the first phase of polling.
In the 2012 assembly polls, of the 73 seats -- the Samajwadi Party had won 24 seats, the Bahujan Samaj Party 23, the Bharatiya Janata Party 12, the Rashtriya Lok Dal 9 and the Congress 5 seats.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had won all the 12 seats here and many political veterans like Ajit Singh were drowned in the saffron surge.
There are 2.59 crore voters who would exercise there franchise on February 11, of which 1.42 crore are men, 1.17 crore women and 1,511 from the third gender.