LUCKNOW: Forty three per cent voters cast their mandate in the Gorakhpur parliamentary constituency today while Phulpur recorded an even lesser 37.39 per cent turnout as the crucial bypolls to the two Lok Sabha seats were held peacefully, the state election office said.
Polling began at 7 AM and passed off peacefully at 5 PM, the state election office said.
"Gorakhpur recorded a turnout of 43 per cent and Phulpur 37.39 per cent," it added.
There were complaints of EVM malfunctioning at a few booths, but the machines were promptly replaced without affecting the polling, an election official said here.
The reason behind the lower than expected turnout in the high-stakes polls in the country's electorally most significant state was said to be a lack of enthusiasm among voters who are now looking forward to the general elections which are barely a year away.
Tight security arrangements were in place to ensure free and fair polling. Apart from the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and homeguard jawans, 65 companies of central paramilitary forces were deployed to ensure peaceful bypolls.
The bypolls were necessitated after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya vacated their Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats after getting elected to the state legislative council.
After casting his vote in Gorakhpur, Adityanath said the BJP was getting widespread support.
"The people know that development is the only panacea," he told reporters there.
Attacking the BSP and the SP, he said, "These parties are indulging in negative politics, politics of bargaining and politics of opportunism. The state has suffered the negative consequences because of this. To ensure that in future such a situation does not arise, efforts have to be made to shun politics of casteism and dynastic politics, and the focus should be on development and administration."
Asked about the SP and BSP entering an electoral understanding, Adityanath said it would have no effect on the outcome of the polls.
"If the SP, BSP and Congress had fought together, then results would have been much better for us," he said.
Termed by Adityanath as a "rehearsal" for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the bye-polls are witnessing a triangular contest involving the ruling BJP, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress.
The saffron party has fielded Kaushalendra Singh Patel from Phulpur and Upendra Dutt Shukla from Gorakhpur against the SP's Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel and Pravin Nishad, respectively. The Congress has nominated Sureetha Kareem for Gorakhpur and Manish Mishra for Phulpur Lok Sabha seat.
Ten candidates are in the fray from Gorakhpur, while 22 candidates are contesting from Phulpur.
Gorakhpur is significant for the BJP as it is the bastion of the chief minister, who represented the seat Lok Sabha five times. Prior to Adityanath, the seat was represented in parliament by his mentor Yogi Avaidyanath thrice.
Phulpur, once represented by the country's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, witnessed a saffron surge in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as Maurya won there.
Maurya exuded confidence that the BJP would sweep the ongoing bypolls.
"I am confident that on March 14 (when results are declared), the record made in Phulpur in 2014 (Lok Sabha elections) will be repeated, and our candidate Kaushalendra Patel will emerge victorious," he told reporters after casting his vote for the Phulpur seat along with family members.
Asked about the BJP's plans to counter the electoral understanding between SP and BSP, Maurya said, "We have already expanded enough, and in future if any political party wants to join us, it will be definitely deliberated upon. But, today from UP's point of view, the poll alliance of the BJP, Apna Dal (Sonelal) and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) exists. Apart from this, we do not have any other alliance. And, banking on this alliance, we will win 80 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state," he said.
Taking a jibe at the SP-BSP tie-up, the minister said, "Their (SP-BSP) votes will be transferred only when they have enough votes".
"The votes (of the people) are with us. But, they have only leaders who make statements...The voters of Mayawatiji have deserted the BSP and have reposed their faith in Modiji, Yogi and BJP. We are winning both the Lok Sabha seats, and with wider margin," Maurya claimed.
Union minister Shiv Pratap Shukla cast his vote in Gorakhpur, while UP Health minister Sidharth Nath Singh exercised his franchise in Phulpur.
Interestingly, it was on this day last year that BJP and its allies stormed to power in the UP Assembly elections.
In Gorakhpur parliamentary constituency, there were 970 polling centres and 2,141 polling booths, while in Phulpur, there were 793 polling centres and 2,059 polling booths.
According to the Election Commission, there are 19.61 lakh voters in the Phulpur parliamentary constituency, while the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat has a 19.49 lakh electorate. As many as 4,728 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines were used in the bypolls and provisions were made for web-casting from 95 critical booths.
Counting of ballots will be taken up on March 14.