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With the first round of polling in 58 Assembly seats of Uttar Pradesh witnessing a voter turnout of over 60 per cent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders claimed on Friday that it is the start of the party’s journey to electoral victory, while SP chief Akhilesh Yadav asserted that it is the “beginning of the washout” of the saffron party from the state. Voters exercised their franchise in 11 western Uttar Pradesh districts on Thursday.

During the 2017 state polls, a voter turnout of 63.47 per cent was recorded in these constituencies, according to a report of the Election Commission (EC).

Kairana and other parts of Shamli district saw the highest voter turnout. While Kairana, a talking point due to the problem of migration raked up by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saw 71 per cent voting, Shamli district on the whole registered a polling percentage of 69.42.

Agra recorded 60.33 per cent polling, Aligarh 60.49 per cent, Baghpat 61.35 per cent, Bulandshahr 60.52 per cent, Gautam Buddh Nagar 56.73 per cent, Ghaziabad 54.77 per cent, Hapur 60.5 per cent, Mathura 63.28 per cent, Meerut 60.91 per cent and Muzaffarnagar recorded a voter turnout of 65.34 per cent.

Crisscrossing the state to garner support for the saffron party’s candidates, Modi told an election rally in Kasganj that the BJP’s flag was flying high after the initial round of voting in Uttar Pradesh, while there was gloom on the faces of its rivals.

Taking a swipe at the party’s opponents, he said seeing their hopes getting dashed after Thursday’s voting, they have already started blaming the electronic voting machines (EVMs).

They would get a lot of time for “bad mouthing” the machines after March 10, when the election results will be declared, the prime minister added.

Addressing a rally in Shahjahanpur, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said, “The first round of voting has laid the foundation for the BJP’s target of crossing 300 seats.”

Taking a dig at Yadav, he said the polling in the first round of the seven-phase election in Uttar Pradesh is not allowing the Samajwadi Party (SP) chief to sleep at night.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath thanked the voters for reposing their faith in the “double-engine” government, referring to the BJP being in power at the Centre as well as in the state.

Yadav too sounded confident of an opposition victory in the polls.

“The first round of voting has started the process of the BJP’s washout from the state and it will gain momentum with every successive phase to ensure that the party is thrown out of power,” the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister said.

The first phase of voting has sealed the fate of ministers Shrikant Sharma, Suresh Rana, Sandeep Singh, Kapil Dev Agarwal, Atul Garg and Chowdhury Lakshmi Narain.

In 2017, the BJP had bagged 53 of the 58 seats in the region, while the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had got two seats each and one seat had gone to the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).

The BSP and the Congress also expressed satisfaction over the voting on Thursday.

BSP spokesperson Dharamveer Chaudhary claimed that the polling percentage was in favour of his party.

“We are maintaining an edge over others. People have voted against the government. We had expected a better voter turnout but it seems that fear and insecurity due to COVID-19 kept the voters away,” he said.

The BSP had secured 22.5 per cent votes in the last Assembly polls and the party’s gains will surely be more this time, Chaudhary said, adding that an increase of only three per cent votes will add 100 seats to its kitty.

In 2017, the Mayawati-led party lost by less than 2,000 votes on 88 seats and on 119 seats, it secured the second spot, he pointed out.

Congress spokesperson Ashok Singh said according to the feedback received from the party’s office-bearers and workers, “we have got people’s support in the first phase of polling”.

“The results will be good for us. The results will be surprising,” he added.

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