New Delhi: After two phases of polling, the Uttar Pradesh elections will enter the vital third stage on Sunday, February 20.
The third phase covers five western Uttar Pradesh districts: Firozabad, Mainpuri, Etah, Kasganj and Hathras. Polling will also be held in Kanpur, Kanpur Dehat, Auraiya, Kannauj, Etawah, Farrukhabad and districts from the Bundelkhand region Lalitpur, Hamirpur, Jhansi, Jalaun and Mahoba.
Out of 59 assembly constituencies spread across 16 districts, all eyes would be at Karhal in Mainpuri, where Samajwadi Party chief and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav is pitted against BJP nominee S. P. Singh Baghel. The BJP won 49 in 2017 polls while the Samajwadi and Congress could win only nine and one, respectively.
Baghel, a Scheduled Caste leader, is a trusted BJP leader and Union minister of state and sitting Agra MP. Union Home Minister Amit Shah and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath campaigned aggressively for Baghel. Another important BJP leader, Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya, said, "The nervous Samajwadi Party was forced to bring in veteran Mulayam Singh Yadav to campaign. But he did not take Akhilesh's name. May be Mulayam Singh ji and also Shivpal Singh Yadav (Akhilesh's uncle) want that cycle (SP symbol) does not run long."
Crucial Punjab polls
On February 20, political analysts and activists will also be keen to follow the voting pattern and voters' turnout in Punjab.
The main parties in the fray are the Congress, AAP, SAD-BSP, BJP-Punjab Lok Congress-SAD (Sanyukt) and Sanyukt Samaj Morcha.
The elections will be held on the backdrop of the cancellation of the PM's rally on January 5 and a bomb explosion in Ludhiana on December 23.