Polling has begun for the seventh and final phase of Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
This phase will bring the curtain down on one of the most fiercely contested elections in the state.
Polling is being held in a total of 54 Assembly constituencies of Purvanchal, spread across nine districts. The districts where polling is being held include Azamgarh, Mau, Jaunpur, Ghazipur, Chandauli, Varanasi, Mirzapur, Bhadohi and Sonbhadra.
The counting for all the phases will be done on March 10.
A total of 613 candidates will be trying their luck in this phase on the 54 seats which include 11 reserved for the Scheduled Castes and two for the Scheduled Tribes by an electorate consisting around 2.06 crores.
The final round will also be a test of the alliances carved by both the BJP and Samajwadi Party with small caste-based parties.
BJP’s allies Apna Dal (Sonelal) and Nishad Party and Akhilesh Yadav’s new friends Apna Dal (K), Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) of Om Prakash Rajbhar and others, are key players in the final phase.
Once considered a stronghold of the Samajwadi Party, the region saw BJP making inroads in 2017 by winning 29 seats along with its allies Apna Dal (4) and SBSP (3).
The BSP had got six seats and Samajwadi Party 11 seats.
Prominent contestants in this phase include UP ministers Neelkanth Tiwari, Anil Rajbhar, Ravindra Jaiswal, Girish Yadav and Rama Shankar Singh Patel.
Dara Singh Chauhan who had resigned from the Yogi Adityanath cabinet and joined the Samajwadi Party is also in contesting from Ghosi in Mau.
SBSP president Om Prakash Rajbhar (Zahoorabad), Dhananjay Singh (Malhani-Jaunpur) as JD(U) candidate and Abbas Ansari, son of mafia turned politician Mukhtar Ansari, from Mau Sadar seat are other prominent candidates in the final phase.
The BJP is going all out to retain its bastion while the Samajwadi Party is eyeing to regain the constituencies it won in the 2012 Assembly elections.
Also, the seventh and last phase of UP assembly elections will be a litmus test for allies on both the sides– from Anupriya Patel in BJP-led alliance to Om Prakash Rajbhar in the SP-led alliance.
In this election, BJP has fielded 48 candidates out of 54 seats on the party symbol while its ally Apna Dal (S) and Nishad Party have fielded 3-3 candidates each.
On the other hand, Samajwadi Party has fielded 45 candidates on its symbol while its ally SBSP has fielded 7 candidates and Apna Dal (K) has fielded two candidates.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, BJP president J.P. Nadda, union ministers, Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah, have been extensively campaigning in Purvanchal for the final phase to repeat its 2017 success story.