NEW DELHI: The stage is set for the crucial first phase of the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, voting for which will begin on Saturday morning. Polling will be held in 73 assembly constituencies spread across 15 districts in the western part of the state, beginning 7 a.m.
In the first of the seven-phased staggered elections in the state, a total of 839 candidates are in fray.
Prominent seats which have attracted attention, include Noida from where Pankaj Singh, son of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is contesting; Mathura where senior Congress leader Pradip Mathur is locked in a direct battle with Shrikant Sharma, the national spokesman of the BJP and Sardhana where BJP’s Sangeet Som is challenged by SP’s Atul Pradhan.
Kairana, Thana Bhawan and Sikandarabad are other high-profile seats.
Here are six heavyweight candidates to watch out for in the first phase of UP elections:
1: Pankaj Singh (BJP):
In Noida, BJP’s Pankaj Singh, son of union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, locked in a triangular contest with candidates of the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. The election is vital for Pankaj Singh, 38, as he is making his debut in an assembly poll.
The BSP has fielded a new candidate Ravikant Mishra, a Brahmin, while Samajwadi Party’s Sunil Choudhary had contested an earlier election. Noida is a relatively new assembly seat, carved out as a separate constituency from Dadri in 2012.
2: Sangeet Som (BJP):
Eyes will also be on the Sardhana seat in Meerut here BJP has yet again put faith in Muzaffarnagar riot accused MLA Sangeet Singh Som.
Som has been challenged by UP CM Akhilesh Yadav’s confidant SP Candidate Atul Chauhan and BSP’s Hafiz Yakoob.
3: Suresh Rana (BJP):
Controversial BJP MLA and Muzaffarnagar riots accused Suresh Rana will be contesting from Thana Bhuwan seat. SP fielded Lucknow University Professor Sudhir Pawar against Rana while BSP opted for a Muslim face Abdul Waris Khan from this seat. Rana was recently booked for hate speech over his remarks that curfew will be imposed in Kairana if he is elected again
4: Pradeep Mathur (Congress), Srikant Sharma (BJP):
Another high profile contest will be on the Mathura seat where Incumbent Congress MLA, Pradeep Mathur, has been challenged by BJP national spokesperson Srikant Sharma. Mathur has been winning the Mathura seat for past three terms.
5: Laxmikant Bajpai (BJP)
Former state BJP president and sitting MLA Laxmikant Bajpai is also trying his luck from Meerut city seat to make a hat trick. Bajpayi is being challenged in a triangular contest by SP-Congress combine’s Rafiq Ansari and BSP’s Pankaj Jolly.
6: Rahul Yadav (SP)
Rahul Yadav, son- in-law of former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav is contesting on SP ticket from Sikandrabad seat in Bulandshaher district. Rahul is married to Prasad’s fourth daughter Ragini and is the son of Congress leader Jitendra Yadav, a former SP MLA.