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All eyes on Ayodhya, BJP looks to maintain dominance in Phase 5

Lucknow: Sixty-one constituencies spread across 12 districts of Uttar Pradesh are voting in the fifth phase of elections in the state today. Polling began at 7 am and will continue till 6 pm.

In Uttar Pradesh, BJP and allies hold dominant influence over the central and Awadh region seats that vote today. All eyes will be on temple town Ayodhya which was the epicentre of the movement for the construction of a Ram temple.

BJP MLA VP Gupta will contest against Pawan Pandey from the Samajwadi Party on this seat. Mr Pandey was dubbed the 2012 “giant killer” from this seat after defeating a five-term BJP MLA.

Prayagraj, formerly Allahabad, will vote today. The city is home to the “Sangam”, a sacred Hindu site, and also has a sizeable student population from all communities owing to numerous coaching centres. Former Congress bastion Amethi also votes today.

This phase is crucial for the BJP as the party and its allies won 50 of the 61 seats here in the 2017 elections. A resurgent Samajwadi Party led by Akhilesh Yadav is the BJP’s biggest challenger here.

While the BJP has focused on action against criminals and mafias as the poll pitch in this phase, the opposition parties have cornered the BJP on the issue of stray cattle. Unemployment and rural distress are other major issues that the opposition has been bullish on.

The districts going to the polls today include Sultanpur, Chitrakoot, Pratapgarh, Kaushambi, Prayagraj, Barabaki, Bahraich, Shravasti and Gonda.

Prominent among those in the fray for the 5th phase include Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, who is contesting from the Sirathu assembly seat in the Kaushambi district. He is facing Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) candidate Pallavi Patel.

Other ministers who are in the fray are Siddharth Nath Singh from Allahabad West, Rajendra Singh alias Moti Singh from Patti (Pratapgarh), Nand Gopal Gupta Nadi from Allahabad South and Ramapati Shastri from Mankapur (Gonda).

Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya, who is the MLA from Kunda since 1993, is once again in the fray from his party Jansatta Dal with his old aide Gulshan Yadav pitted against him on a Samajwadi Party ticket.

Union Minister Anupriya Patel’s mother and Apna Dal (K) leader Krishna Patel is also contesting from the Pratapgarh seat. Apna Dal (K) has entered into an alliance with the Samajwadi Party.

Union Minister Anupriya Patel, heading a rival faction of the party named after her father Sonelal Patel, however, has handed over the seat to the BJP to challenge her mother, Krishna Patel.

Congress legislature party leader Aradhana Mishra Mona is fighting from Rampur Khas seat of Pratapgarh.

After phase four of polling in the state on February 23, 231 of UP’s 403 assembly seats have already voted.