The assembly poll process for Uttar Pradesh will start rolling from Tuesday with notification for the first phase of voting on February 11 covering 73 constituencies spread over 15 districts in Muslim-dominated Western UP. The filing nominations for these constituencies will start on Tuesday itself and the last date is January 24.
Withdrawal of candidature could be done till January 27 and polling will be on February 11. The state will have seven-phase polling between February 11 and March 8. The districts going to polls in the first phase are Shamli, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Hapur, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Mathura, Hathras, Agra, Firozabad, Etah and Kasganj.
Interestingly, the first phase will cover western UP districts, including riot-scarred Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, where BJP had fared well in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls due to polarisation of voters. The Muslim-dominated areas will also be an acid test for BSP chief Mayawati, who is banking heavily on Dalit-Muslim vote bank, in the region which was once its favourite hunting ground.
This time, BSP is relying on Muslim support by giving them maximum 97 tickets (out of 403) and the poll outcome will reflect as to what extent Mayawati has been able to keep her Dalit support base intact amid intense wooing by BJP and also to what extent she can garner more Muslim support than last time.
Samajwadi Party is going through turmoil as an ugly family dispute between Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav remains unresolved.
The turnout of voters, especially minorities, in the first two phases could give an inkling of the mood of Muslims and determine if the overall contest will be between BJP and SP or BJP and BSP or whether it will be a three-way fight. The first phase in Muslim-dominated region could also give bring out the impact of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) led by Asaduddin Owaisi.