The campaign for the third phase of elections in Uttar Pradesh which will decide the electoral fate of SP stalwarts Mulayam Singh Yadav and Azam Khan, besides that of BJP candidate and film actor Jaya Prada, among others, ended Sunday evening.
The polling for the third phase is to be held on April 23 for ten Lok Sabha seats in the Rohilkhand region of Uttar Pradesh.
The BJP has a huge stake in this phase in Uttar Pradesh with the party having won seven out of the ten seats in the region in 2014, leaving three for the Samajwadi Party, but facing a tough challenge from SP-BSP-RLD combine here.
The campaigning for the phase witnessed a new low with SP leader Azam Khan making an "indecent" remark, targeting his opponent Jaya Prada in Rampur by allegedly speculating on the colour of her underwear and attracting the saffron party wrath, besides that of the National Commission for Women.
Khan who also faced a 72-hour ban by the Election Commission of India on his campaigning after making the underwear jibe was among the three other leaders, including Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and BSP supremo Mayawati, who faced the poll panel's wrath for making "provocative" speeches.
The other political heavyweights, whose fates are in balance in the third phase of elections here, include Union minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar, who is fighting from Bareilly and BJP's Varun Gandhi from Pilibhit.
Also hangs in the electoral balance, the fate of four family members of Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Siingh Yadav clan with his rebel younger brother and Pragateesheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) chief Shivpal Singh Yadav fighting it out with his nephew, Ram Gopal Yadav son Akshay Yadav for the Firozabad seat.
While Mulayam Singh Yadav himself is contesting from his home turf Mainpuri, his another nephew Dharmendra Yadav, son of SP patriarch's little known brother Abhay Ram Yadav, from Badaun. A three-term MP, Dharmendra Yadav is seeking a fourth term from Badaun.
With a large area of the Rohilkhand region considered a stronghold of Samajwadi Party, the state's trilateral alliance of the SP, BSP and RLD combine has left no stone unturned in campaigning in this region.
The third-phase campaigning saw an unprecedented spectacle of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati sharing dias in Mainpuri after burying their hatchet after 24 years of Lucknow state guest house episode involving an attack by SP workers on Mayawati for withdrawing support from the Samajwadi Party-led government.
The BSP supremo sought vote for the SP founder, sending a strong signal of new bonhomie between the two allies, which threatens to upset the BJP's poll cart in Uttar Pradesh.
Resuming her poll campaign after an Election Commission's 48-hour embargo on her political activities, Mayawati also addressed several rallies, including the one in Rampur for Azam Khan.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi too marked his presence in the poll arena in the region, addressing a meeting in Badaun in support of his party candidate Salem Sherwani.
The BJP poll campaign was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who addressed rallies in Moradabad on April 14 and in Etah and Bareilly on Saturday along with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who too, resuming the 72-hour poll panel's ban on electioneering by him over his Ali-Bajrang Bali remark, criss-crossed several constituencies in the region.
The 10 constituencies going to polls in the third phase are Moradabad, Rampur, Sambhal, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Etah, Budaun, Aonla, Bareilly and Pilibhit.
Of these Budaun, Mainpuri and Firozabad had been won by the SP in 2014.
Though the BJP is pitted in most of these constituencies directly against the SP-BSP-RLD combine, the presence of the Congress and the Sihvpal Yadav's PSLP has made the contest triangular in some constituencies.
A total of 1.76 crore voters -- 95.5 lakh males and 80.9 lakh females -- are slated to exercise their franchise in this phase at 20,116 polling booths to decide the fate of 120 candidates in the fray.
There are 2,98,619 first-time votes in the age group of 18-19 years and 2,99,871 voters who are about 80 years of age.