Missing VIPs in Uttar Pradesh poll campaign

It was curtains down on the massive poll exercise in Uttar Pradesh with the seventh and final phase of voting for 40 assembly seats ending on Wednesday.

But with two and half years left for the next Lok Sabha polls, the Congress will have to take some decisions on its future and on its leadership - and not put them off till the next round of Assembly elections later this year. A total of 98 candidates are in the fray in the second and final phase of assembly elections in Manipur. The exit polls, expected to roll out on Thursday evening, may throw more light on this preliminary assessment. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah stepping up the campaign seems to have changed the narrative around, helping the BJP push its tally up and create a mini-surge, even if not exactly a sweep like 2014.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is contesting 32 seats and its allies - the Apana Dal and the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party - are contesting on four seats each. The BSP has fielded its nominees for all seats.

The Congress-Samajwadi Party combination, meanwhile, has a far more modest estimate of their performance, according to a senior Congress analyst who says it could win close to 180-190 seats.

Counting of votes polled in all the seven phases of the Assembly polls will be taken up on March 11.

All eyes were on Thoubal, where Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh is seeking re-election as a Congress candidate in a five-cornered contest that also features human rights activist and People's Resurgence and Justice Alliance nominee Irom Sharmila and BJP's Leitanthem Singh. While BSP supremo Mayawati will also be hoping to make inroads in the last phase of polls.

On the other hand, the Indian National Congress Party also maintained that it would form the government in Uttar Pradesh with its ally.

The elections in Manipur this time are billed as a crucial test for the 15-year-old Congress regime which is facing a stiff challenge from the BJP. On the other hand, Punjab is turning out to be an open battle between AAP, Congress and BJP.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who has not been keeping well, did not campaign in the state.

  • Leroy Wright