Voting in 53 assembly constituencies in the fourth phase of Uttar Pradesh elections began at 7 a.m on Thursday amid tight security, officials said.
In all, 1.84 crore voters will use their franchise in the tight contest between the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Congress alliance, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Of these, around one crore are male voters, 84 lakh women voters and 1,034 voters from the third gender.
The fourth phase is especially significant for the Congress, as it had managed to wrest only six seats in the 2012 assembly polls in these constituencies. Besides, the parliamentary constituency of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Rae Bareli, is also voting in this phase.
It is for the first time since 1998 that Sonia Gandhi has not campaigned in an election. However, on the eve of voting, she wrote a letter to the electorate seeking their support for the party and votes in favor of the party candidates.
The Congress has struck an alliance with the ruling SP for the elections. The SP is contesting 298 seats and the Congress 105. But, out of the total seats voting on Thursday, there are 17 where both parties have fielded their nominees.
There are a total of 680 candidates in the fray in the fourth phase, of which 61 are women.
The assembly constituency with maximum number of candidates is Allahabad North, where 26 candidates are trying their luck at the hustings. The seats with least number of candidates are Khaga and Kunda, which have six candidates each.