Manipur and Uttar Pradesh go to first and sixth phase of elections respectively on Saturday. While 49 seats go for votes in the penultimate round in Uttar Pradesh, in Manipur contests occur for 38 seats.
In Manipur, the election is billed as a major test for the Okram Ibobi Singh-led Congress government in the state which has been in power for the last 15 years. The first phase will cover 38 constituencies for which 1,643 polling stations have been set up in areas spread over Imphal East, Imphal West, Bishnupur and the hill districts of Churachandpur and Kangpokpi. In all, 168 candidates will contest.
In UP seven eastern districts are voting in the sixth phase of assembly polls on Saturday, with Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Azamgarh Lok Sabha constituency in the focus.
At least 635 candidates are in the fray in this phase spread over Azamgarh, Ballia, Deoria, Gorakhpur, Kushi Nagar, Maharajganj and Mau districts of UP. Over 1.7 crore voters, including 94.60 lakh men and 77.84 lakh women, are eligible to vote in UP.
Manipur has witnessed multiple rallies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. During campaigning, there were bitter exchanges between the Congress and the BJP over the ongoing economic blockade in the state and the Naga Peace Accord.
The Congress accused the BJP of “compromising with the territorial integrity” of Manipur, an allegation the saffron party has vociferously denied.
The Naga Peace Accord, also called the “framework agreement”, was signed between the National Socialist Council of Nagalim-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) and the Centre in August, 2015. The state has been saddled with an indefinite economic blockade since 1 November 2016, imposed by the United Naga Council, causing immense hardship to the people as the supply of essential commodities, especially fuel, in the land-locked state has choked.
The blockade has been imposed on Manipur's “lifelines” -- national highways 2 and 37, in protest against the state government's decision to carve out seven new districts from the existing ones.
The blockade has become a major poll plank in the north-eastern state. The second and final phase of the Assembly polls is scheduled on 8 March.
In Uttar Pradesh in 2012, the ruling SP won 27 of the 49 seats in 2012 and its present ally - the Congress - won 4. The BJP won 7 while the BSP bagged 7. Such was the SP’s sweep that in 2012 it took 9 of the 10 seats in Azamgarh. Azamgarh, is the parliamentary constituency of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav.
BSP has fielded Mukhtar Ansari from Mau, his son Abbas Ansari from Ghosi and his brother Sigbatullah Ansari from Ghazipur and party hopes their presence in the BSP will bring Muslim votes for the other party candidates as well.
Apart from this focus is also on assembly segments of Gorakhpur Lok Sabha constituency of firebrand BJP leader Yogi Adityanath.
While BSP has fielded candidates on all 49 seats, SP is contesting 40 seats and Congress 9 seats under an alliance.
Manipur has 5,44,050 men and 5,75,220 women voters for the first phase polling. Besides. more than seven thousand service voters are expected to cast their votes. Ethnic equations play a big role in assembly elections here.
BJP is the only party contesting all 60 seats in Manipur while the Congress, which was in power in the outgoing assembly, is fielding 59 candidates. Activist Irom Sharmila, who broke her 16-year fast in 2016 and founded the Peoples Resurgence and Justice Alliance, is also contesting in the Manipur elections.