An average of over 53 per cent voters exercised their franchise on Tuesday in the Uttar Pradesh assembly byelections for seven seats with 88 candidates in the fray.
The polling, which began at a slow pace at 7 am amid tight security and adherence to anti-COVID precautions, picked up momentum as the day progressed and an overall 53.62 per cent of registered voters cast their votes.
The polling concluded at 6 pm amid an allegation of bogus voting at three polling booths of Naugaon Sadat assembly constituency in Amroha district and over a six-hour-long poll boycott at a polling booth for Tundla seat in Firozabad district.
A total of 50.59 per cent votes were cast in Bangarmau, 52.10 per cent in Bulandshahr, 51.05 per cent in Deoria, 49.42 per cent in Ghatampur, 56.65 per cent in Malhani, 61.50 per cent in Naugaon Sadat and 54 per cent in Tundla, said Joint Chief Electoral Officer Ramesh Chand Rai after the conclusion of polling.
Counting of votes will be undertaken on November 10.
Six of these seven seats were held by the Bharatiya Janata Party, while the Malhani seat in Jaunpur district was held by the Samajwadi Party.
The voting began in the morning with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath urging voters to participate in the "mega festival of democracy" in large numbers.
"Everyone should exercise caution and discharge the duty of casting vote," Adityanath tweeted earlier in the day.
"Democracy will win, coronavirus will lose," he said.
The SP also appealed to voters to vote in large numbers. "Those in power and responsible for farmers' worries, women's insecurity, poor health facilities, labourers' joblessness and collapsed law and order should be given a reply in today's assembly bypolls," it tweeted.
Earlier in the day amid the ongoing polling, Chief Electoral Officer Ajay Kumar Shukla said, "All preparations to ensure a free, fair and peaceful polling, keeping in mind the coronavirus pandemic, have been made."
"Voters will have to follow the anti-COVID protocol and maintain safe distance among themselves while casting votes," he added.
The voting began with the deployment of "adequate" number security personnel at polling booths, including 371 "critical" ones.
Amid the ongoing polling, BJP candidate Sangeeta Chauhan for Naugaon Sadat seat in Amroha district alleged "fake voting" at three polling booths - Booth No 240, 24 and 242 -- in her constituency and demanded that those wearing burqa should show their faces to enable poll officials ascertain their identities.
"Fake voting is going on, but the administration is unable to understand this," she told reporters.
"We are repeatedly saying this, but no one is listening to us," she added.
The chief electoral officer told PTI that he would look into these allegations.
People at booth number 30 at Rudhau Mustkil of Tundla constituency in Firozabad district boycotted the by-election for over six hours, alleging no development in their area and insisting that they will not vote unless they get an assurance for the development.
Chanting "vikas nahi, to vote nahi" (no development, no vote), voters at the Rudhau Mustkil booth, voters boycotted the polling.
In a video clip that surfaced on social media, area's Sub-divisional Magistrate Ekta Singh was purportedly seen talking to the people and urging them to vote.
The Yogi Adityanath government has been facing the opposition flak over the law and order situation in the state, particularly after the Hathras and the Balrampur rape-and-murder cases.
The Naugaon Sadat seat fell vacant after the death of state Cabinet minister and former cricketer Chetan Chauhan.
The Ghatampur bypoll in Kanpur Nagar district was necessitated due to the death of state minister Kamal Rani Varun. Both ministers had died of COVID-19.
The Tundla seat fell vacant after its MLA SP Singh Baghel was elected to the Lok Sabha, while the Bangarmau seat in Unnao fell vacant after the conviction of BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar in a rape case.
The BJP had dumped Sengar soon after he was found involved in the rape case.
The bypolls to the Bulandshahr, Deoria and Malhani seats were necessitated due to deaths of sitting MLAs Virendra Singh Sirohi, Janmejay Singh and Parasnath Yadav (SP) respectively.
Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad's Azad Samaj Party is testing its electoral popularity in Bulandshahr by fielding Mohammad Yameen, looking forward to consolidating its hold among Dalits in the run-up to the 2022 assembly polls.
While Bulandshahr has the highest number of 18 candidates, Ghatampur has the lowest number of six contestants. Sixteen contenders are in the fray in Malhani, 14 each in Naugaon Sadat and Deoria, 10 each in Bangarmau and Tundla.