UP all set for vote count

Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous and politically critical state, is all set for Thursday’s counting of the millions of votes polled in assembly elections which most exit polls say will help the BJP to retain power.
The Election Commission said on Wednesday that it has completed preparations for the mammoth counting exercise which will start at 8 a.m. across the sprawling state to pick 403 MLAs.
The seventh and final phase of the staggered voting ended on Monday after a high-voltage election campaign that saw top leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, trade charges with the main opposition Samajwadi Party and others.
The Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) also contested the elections on their own strength. According to the Election Commission, 59.11 per cent of the 15.02 crore eligible voters exercise their franchise in the state, down from the 61.11 per cent who voted in 2017.
In 2017, the BJP with 39.67 per cent votes bagged 312 seats. The Samajwadi Party (SP), which was in power then, got 47 seats, followed by the BSP (19 seats) and Congress (7). Prominent candidates in the fray this time include Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and former Chief Minister as well as Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav. Yogi, contesting from Gorakhpur Sadar, is being challenged by the wife of former BJP leader and SP candidate Subhavati Shukla.
Akhilesh Yadav, contesting from Karhal in Mainpuri district, is opposed by Union Minister S P Singh Baghel. Others in the fray are Agriculture Minister Surya Pratap Shahi, Energy Minister Shrikant Sharma, grandson of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and MSME Minister Siddharth Nath Singh, Transport Minister Anil Rajbhar and Cane Minister Suresh Rana.
Among the leading opposition leaders, SP’s Mohammad Azam Khan was in the fray from Rampur, his son Abdullah Azam from Suar seat, Abbas Ansari, son of the jailed Mukhtar Ansari, from Mau seat on SBSP ticket and Congress state President Ajay Kumar Lallu from Tamkuhi Raj.