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57.36% turnout in phase-V of UP polls

An estimated 57.36 per cent of 1.81 crore electorate on Monday cast their votes amid tight security during the fifth phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh with Amethi and Faizabad assembly seats remaining the centre of attention.

The day-long poll process remained largely peaceful in 51 Assembly constituencies spread over 11 districts of the state.

"57.36 per cent polling was recorded till 5 pm and the figure is likely to go up as several voters waited in queues to exercise their franchise," UP Chief Electoral Officer T Venkatesh said.

The first four phases of UP polls this time saw voter turnouts of 64 per cent, 65 per cent, 61.16 per cent and 61 per cent respectively.

Though the exercise remained slow during the first two hours in morning, it picked up the pace gradually with the first-time voters seen exercising their franchise with gusto.

Prominent contestants in the phase included controversial minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati from the ruling Samajwadi Party, who is facing Amita Singh from Congress and BJP's Garima Singh in Amethi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Rahul Gandhi.

Prajapati, against whom an FIR has been lodged in an alleged rape case, said the people were with him and there was a strong wave in the favour of SP.

Amita, the wife of Congress leader Sanjay Singh, hoped people would support the best candidate "and I will definitely win."

Garima, the first wife of Sanjay, on the other hand, said there was no development in the constituency and people were facing problems.

The districts that went to polls in the Vth phase are Balrampur, Gonda, Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Bahraich, Shravasti, Basti, Siddharth Nagar, Sant Kabir Nagar, Amethi and Sultanpur.

Faizabad is another key seat with BJP's Ram Temple issue once again figuring in its election manifesto this time.

Ayodhya Assembly seat, which falls in Faizabad district, used to be a traditional stronghold of BJP since the Ram Temple movement days. But it was snatched by SP in 2012. This time the saffron party is trying to wrestle it back.

The turnout in these constituencies in 2012 was 57.09 per cent.

In the 2012 Assembly polls, the SP had won 37 seats out of the total 52 seats (including Alapur) that went to poll in this phase. The BJP and Congress had got five seats each, the BSP 3 and Peace Party 2 out of these 57 seats.

In the present phase, the BJP contested 50 seats, leaving one seat for its ally Apna Dal. The BSP fielded candidates on 51 seats, while Samajwadi Party contested 43 and its ally Congress the rest. Some seats saw a friendly fight between Congress and SP.

In all, 607 candidates were in the fray in the Vth phase with the maximum of 24 candidates running the poll in Amethi and minimum of six each in Kapilvastu and Etwa seats in Siddharth Nagar district.

With two phases to go on March 4 and March 8 respectively, the lion's share of the votes has already been cast in India's most politically crucial state. With 89 more seats up for grabs, the parties are pulling out all stops and rolling out their star campaigners to woo voters.

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