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64% turnout in high-stake battle

An estimated 64 percent voter turnout was witnessed on Saturday in the first of the seven-phased Uttar Pradesh polls which passed off peacefully in 73 Assembly constituencies, barring a few stray incidents of violence.

Chief Electoral Officer T Venkatesh said at some places, there were reports of election slips being snatched, leading to pelting of stones and clashes.

The turnout was estimated at around 64 percent till the close of polling, he told a news conference here at the end of polling.

The first phase witnessed a three percent rise in voter turnout as in the same phase in 2012, covering these Assembly constituencies, it was 61 percent. Etah recorded 73 percent turnout, Muzaffarnagar 65 percent, Bulandshahr 64 percent, Noida 60 percent and Ghaziabad 57 percent, he said.

A total of 2.60 crore voters, including over 1.17 crore women and 1,508 belonging to third gender category were eligible to cast their ballot to decide the fate of 839 candidates. A report from Baghpat said members of different communities clashed in Baghu colony in the city when one side tried to stop the other from casting their votes.
Ten persons were injured in the clash and had to be admitted to the hospital, police said.

Another incident of violence was reported from Baghpat, where Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) workers obstructed Dalit voters from casting their vote in Looyan village under Badaut area, leading to clash and FIR being lodged against three party workers.

In Meerut, police detained Gagan Som, brother of controversial BJP leader Sangeet Som, for carrying a pistol inside a polling booth. Gagan had reached the polling booth in Sardhana Assembly seat at 9 am. The security personnel deployed there frisked him and recovered a pistol from his possession.

He was immediately detained, police said. Officials said that as per the poll code, those possessing licensed weapons are required to deposit them with the police.
The permission to keep arms is granted in special cases only.

Sangeet is a sitting MLA from Sardhana and had shot to limelight for his controversial speeches during the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.

The first phase of polling will decide the electoral fortunes of son of Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Pankaj Singh (from Noida), Congress Legislature Party leader Pradeep Mathur (Mathura) against whom BJP spokesman Srikant Sharma is in the fray, daughter of BJP MP Hukum Singh Mriganka Singh (Kairana), and controversial BJP MLAs Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana from Sardhana and Thanabhawan respectively.

Former BJP state president Lakshmikant Bajpai (Meerut), RJD chief Lalu Prasad's son-in-law Rahul Singh (SP) from Sikandrabad, and Sandeep Singh, grandson of Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh from Atrauli are among other key figures in this phase.

The Gautam Buddh Nagar district administration and the Election Commission on Saturday directed Noida's Sector 20 police to lodge an FIR against the Noida candidates of BSP and Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance for seeking votes on the polling day. SP-Congress alliance candidate from Noida, Sunil Chaudhary, and BSP candidate, Ravikant Mishra, allegedly sent bulk messages to voters and also went live on Facebook, seeking votes, on the morning of February 11.
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