Voting for key 8 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh began on Thursday. (Photo: IANS)
Lucknow: Over 24 per cent polling has been recorded till 11 am in the eight Lok Sabha seats of western Uttar Pradesh on Thursday in the first leg of the seven-phased general elections.
Three Union ministers— V K Singh (Ghaziabad), Satyapal Singh (Baghpat) and Mahesh Sharma (Gautam Buddha Nagar) — are in the fray in this phase.
In a statement issued here, the Election Commission said, 25.60 per cent polling was recorded in Saharanpur; 24 per cent in Kairana; 26.4 per cent in Muzaffarnagar; 25.10 per cent in Bijnor; 21.80 per cent in Meerut; 25 per cent in Baghpat; 22.40 per cent in Ghaziabad and 24.24 per cent in Gautam Buddh Nagar.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making all-out efforts to retain all the eight Lok Sabha seats while the fledgling Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance too is going whole hog to upset the saffron party's apple cart.
In the 2014 Parliamentary elections, the BJP had won all the eight seats — Saharanpur, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Meerut, Baghpat, Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddh Nagar.
The communally sensitive seat of Muzaffarnagar will see a clash of titans with RLD chief Ajit Singh locking horns with sitting BJP lawmaker Sanjeev Balyan.
For the saffron party, the Kairana parliamentary constituency holds immense significance as it had tasted defeat in the Lok Sabha by-election last year.
Elaborate security arrangements have been made for this phase and over one lakh security personnel have been deployed to ensure free and fair polls, Additional Director General, Law and Order of Uttar Pradesh Police Anand Kumar said.
In the first phase, 1,50,65,682 voters — 82,24,835 men, 68,39,833 women and 1,014 third gender — are eligible to exercise their franchise in 16,518 booths set up inside 6,716 polling centres to decide the fate of 96 candidates.
Prominent among those in the fray include Imran Masood (Congress) and Raghav Lakhanpal (BJP) from Saharanpur, and Tabassum Begum (SP) from Kairana.
In Bijnor, Congress candidate and former UP minister (during Mayawati's tenure) Naseemuddin Siddiqui will challenge Raja Bharatendra Singh, while in Meerut, BJP's Rajendra Agarwal will be hoping for a repeat of 2014, while BSP's Hazi Mohammad Yaqub will be trying to checkmate him.
In Baghpat, Union minister Satyapal Singh is pitted against Jayant Chaudhary (RLD), son of Ajit Singh.
Dolly Sharma of the Congress is contesting against Union minister VK Singh, while in Gautam Buddh Nagar, it is Union minister and BJP candidate Mahesh Sharma versus Arvind Kumar Singh of the Congress.
Politically crucial Uttar Pradesh sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. Of the 80 seats in UP, SP is contesting on 37 seats, BSP on 38 seats, and the RLD will contest on three seats. UP will have seven-phase polling.