UP Elections 2017: Akhilesh Yadav will end his campaign today with a flurry of rallies near Varanasi
Varanasi: It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi vs Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav as campaigning ended in UP today with a final pitch for votes by parties. PM Modi held one rally and made strategic visits in his parliamentary constituency Varanasi, where he was camped for the last three days. Akhilesh Yadav, seeking a second term, is addressing seven rallies through the day. At one rally, he took a swipe at PM Modi for his long stay in Varanasi. At his rally, the Prime Minister called Mr Yadav anti-farmer.
At his rally in Rohaniya, his 23rd in the UP campaign, PM Modi made a vote appeal to farmers and promised people a "UP free of the Samajwadi Party, Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party."
On Monday, PM Modi first visited an ashram that has one crore followers, most of them Yadavs, the community that Akhilesh Yadav counts as core support. He then paid tribute to former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in a none-to-subtle hint that the Congress ignores its great leaders.
"PM Modi has been saying that the BJP has already won the elections and that the last two phases are just a bonus. If that is the case, then why is PM Modi in Banaras for three days?" asked Akhileh Yadav at a rally in Jaunpur, not far from Varanasi.
The UP assembly election, a contest between the BJP, the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance and the BSP, is seen as a bellwether for the 2019 national election.
The BJP has pinned its hopes on a sweep of eastern UP to help it make it to the 202 seats needed to form government in UP, which has 403 assembly seats. The party had won 71 of UP's 80 parliamentary seats - 73 along with ally Apna Dal - in the 2014 national elections and hopes to retain the new voters it gained in that election.
Akhileh Yadav hopes this year's election will be more on the line of the 2012 assembly polls when his party had won. Mr Yadav has been attacked by rival parties over his senior minister Gayatari Prajapati, who has been accused of raping a woman and molesting her minor daughter. Mr Prajapati remains missing after moving court for protection from arrest.
UP Governor Ram Naik has asked Akhilesh Yadav in a letter why Mr Prajapati, who has a non-bailable arrest warrant against him, continues to be a minister in his cabinet. The Governor said it raises serious questions of "constitutional morality and dignity."
Bahujan Samaj Paarty chief Mayawati, who is eyeing Muslim voters in eastern Uttar Pradesh, has also made a whirlwind tour of various constituencies here in the run-up to the final round of elections.
In the 2012 assembly election, the Samajwadi Party had won 23 of the 40 seats that vote on Wednesday. The BSP had won five, the BJP four and the Congress 3. Other parties had won five. In the national election two years later the BJP had won all the parliament seats in this region. Votes will be counted on Saturday, March 11.