Fifty-five seats spread across nine districts, including some in Rohilkhand region, will go to polls on Monday in the second phase of elections in Uttar Pradesh which will see senior Samajwadi Party leader Mohammad Azam Khan and state Finance Minister Suresh Khanna trying their luck at the hustings.
As many as 586 candidates are in the fray in this phase with the seats spread across Saharanpur, Bijnor, Moradabad, Sambhal, Rampur, Amroha, Budaun, Bareilly and Shahjahanpur.
Polling will be held on Monday from 7 am to 6 pm, the election office here said.
Of the 55 seats going to polls in this phase, the BJP had won 38 in 2017, while the Samajwadi Party had bagged 15 and the Congress two. The SP and the Congress had contested the last Assembly election in an alliance.
Of the 15 seats won by the SP, Muslim candidates had emerged victorious in 10.
The areas going to polls in this phase have a sizeable Muslim population influenced by religious leaders of the Barelvi and Deoband sects. These areas are considered to be the strongholds of the Samajwadi Party.
The prominent faces in the fray in this phase include Dharam Singh Saini, a Yogi Adityanath government minister who switched to the SP after the polls.
Khan has been fielded from his stronghold Rampur seat, Khanna from Shahjahanpur, while Saini is trying his luck from the Nakud Assembly segment.
Khan's son Abdullah Azam has been fielded from the Swar seat. He has been pitted against Haider Ali Khan, the heir of another political family, the Nawabs of Rampur, who is trying his luck on the ticket of Apna Dal (Sonelal), a BJP ally.
Haider Ali Khan is the grandson of former MP Noor Bano.
Outgoing Minister of State for Jal Shakti Baldev Singh Aulakh is the candidate from Bilaspur, Minister of State for Urban Development Mahesh Chandra Gupta from Badaun, and Minister of State for Secondary Education Gulab Devi from Chandausi are also in the poll fray.
The former mayor of Bareilly Supriya Aron is contesting from Bareilly Cantonment after joining the Samajwadi Party.
Campaigning for the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attacked the main opposition Samajwadi Party while elaborating on why his party's government was necessary in the state to keep it riot-free.
He had also spoken about the legislation against triple talaq.
"Now these mafiawadis' (supporters of the mafia) have made the big culprit of the Saharanpur riots their partner in this election. It is not just about Saharanpur. In the entire western Uttar Pradesh, these people have selectively fielded criminals. These people are even making anti-nationals their proposers," Modi had said.
Leading his party campaign, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav said "Azam Khan is in jail for building a university, son of a Union minister is out of jail" in the case of running over farmers.
This is the "new India of the BJP", he had said on the bail granted to Union Minister Ajay Mishra's son in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case.
BSP supremo Mayawati had alleged that the Samajwadi Party government ended the Jatav-Muslim brotherhood in western Uttar Pradesh while Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi focused her campaign on women welfare.
President of Rashtriya Kisan Manch Shekhar Dixit, said, "The farmers' anger over the three farm laws, which were subsequently repealed by the Centre, will remain visible in this phase as well. In the first phase, the anger of the farmers towards the BJP was visible."
With the elections being held amid the Covid scare, Additional Chief Electoral Officer Brahmdev Ram Tripathi said all necessary arrangements have been made to ensure free, fair, transparent and Covid-safe polling.
The first phase of the seven-phase Uttar Pradesh polls was held on February 10. The results will be declared on March 10.