In the long and arduous seven-phase assembly election in Uttar Pradesh, the fifth phase polls for 51 seats saw 57.36 percent voting. Despite this, electioneering for this round of polls remained highly watched affair for political watchers. Simply because of the fact that of the total 11 districts that went for the polls on February 27, Amethi and Sultanpur happened to be traditional seats of the Congress and have been represented by the Nehru-Gandhi family since 1980. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is the Lok Sabha member from Amethi under which as many as five assembly seats like Tiloi, Salon, Jagdishpur, Gauriganj and Amethi itself come. Of them, Amethi and Gauriganj witnessed the Congress and the Samajwadi Party fielding their candidates even as both parties are contesting the UP election in alliance. Therefore, mockery was in galore when Congress’ Ameeta Sinh, wife of the party’s Rajya Sabha member and local landlord Sanjay Sinh, was pitted against Gayatri Prajapati of the SP, a candidate who is facing charges under two separate cases, one of gang rape and another, attempt to rape a woman and her minor daughter. A minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government, Gayatri Prajapati felt cornered only when an FIR was lodged against him after the Supreme Court asked the UP government to do so. The BJP fielded Sanjay Sinh’s estranged wife Garima Sinh from the Amethi assembly seat, while the BSP fielded Ramji Morya. The Amethi seat also attracted public attention because of two queens fight–one for personal justice and the other for reputation; one from the BJP and the other from the Congress. In Gauriganj, both the Congress and the SP crossed swords despite their vow to fight united against communal forces. Mohammed Naim, who had won last assembly election on the Congress ticket, was contesting for his personal and the party’s prestige against the SP’s Rakesh Pratap Singh. However, it was Ayodhya, where Muslims and Hindus are fighting a court battle over the Ram temple issue, there were no more noises among voters around the temple construction, rather they were for development and job—a mark departure from the past.
The fifth phase of polls could be remembered not because of high pitched campaigning by political parties, but exceptionally large number of crorepatis in the fray. According to UP Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), out of the total 617 candidates in the fifth phase of the polls, 168 were crorepatis. While 43 crorepatis out of 51 candidates belonged to the BSP, 38 out of 51 belonged to the BJP, 32 out of 42 candidates belonged to the SP, the Congress had fielded 7 crorepatis out of 14 candidate, the RLD, 9 out of 30 and 14 out of 220 belonged to Independent. That means as many as 27 percent candidates had their assets worth more than Rs 1 crore. Among them, however, there were three super rich candidates: Ajay Pratap Singh of the BJP with total assets of more than Rs 49 crore, Ameeta Sinh of the Congress with over Rs 36 crore and Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh of the BJP with over Rs 32 crore.
The fifth phase witnessed high voltage campaigning, but mostly it moved around non-issues. While Chief Minister and the SP’s star campaigner Akhilesh Yadav mocked an advertisement in which Amitabh Bachchan, the brand ambassador of Gujarat Tourism, talks about a “Wild Ass Sanctuary,” BJP president Amit Shah coined an acronym around Kasab, the 26/11 terrorist who was hanged to death in 2010. Addressing a rally, the BJP president said “UP cannot progress unless Kasab is wiped out.” He said in Kasab, Ka referred to the Congress, Sa for the Samajwadi Party and B for Mayawati-headed BSP. The BSP supremo hit back by saying, “There cannot be a bigger Kasab than Amit Shah.” On the other hand, Akhilesh referred Ka in Kasab for “Kabutar” or pigeon. He said that “people will set the BJP’s pigeons free this election.”
Of the total 11 districts which went to the polls in the fifth round, 5 bordered Nepal. As such it was very sensitive area. But despite proper policing arrangement, electioneering process was not as smooth as it should have been. At some places, there were scuffle between police and voters on the issue of fake voting. At some places, glitches in EVM machines also disappointed voters. By and large, it remained peaceful phase of polls, where as many as 1.8 crore voters, including 96 lakh women participated in the voting.