UP Elections 2017: PM Modi's final pitch for votes today in Varanasi on last day of campaigning
Varanasi: On the last day of campaigning in the marathon Uttar Pradesh elections, star campaigners will today make a final pitch for votes in multiple rallies. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will continue his vigorous campaign out of his parliamentary constituency Varanasi, while BJP chief Amit Shah will hold four rallies in the region. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, seeking a second term in UP, will address seven rallies through the day. 40 assembly constituencies in eastern UP, including five in Varanasi, will vote in the final round of the seven-phase UP assembly election on Wednesday. Votes will be counted on Saturday, March 11.
Here are the 10 developments in this big story:
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.
PM Modi has been in Varanasi for the last three days, holding roadshows for the first time since he campaigned for the 2014 national election. The BJP had won 71 of UP's 80 parliamentary seats - 73 along with ally Apna Dal - and hopes to retain the new voters it gained in that election.
On his third day of back-to-back campaigning in Varanasi, PM visited Gadwaghat Ashram, a place most revered by the Yadavs. The ashram has over a crore followers and is said to have a powerful say in the political decision making of the Yadav community. He then paid homage to former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri at his house in city's Ramnagar area. PM Modi addressed a public rally in Rohaniya, about 200 km from Varanasi. He will return to New Delhi late in the evening.
Taking a dig at PM at a rally in Jaunpur, Akhilesh Yadav said "why is PM Modi in Benares for three days when he says the BJP has already won the elections and the last two phases are just a bonus." Mr Yadav, 43, will end his campaign today with a flurry of rallies as he seeks re-election after having deposed his father Mulayam Singh as the Samajwadi Party's chief in a family feud. He along with ally Rahul Gandhi of the Congress too held a roadshow in Varanasi yesterday almost crossing the path of PM Modi.
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.