Lucknow: Campaigning for the first phase of Uttar Pradesh polls, which saw stalwarts of major political parties trading barbs in the key state, came to an end on Monday.

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The high pitch electioneering saw Congress leader Rahul Gandhi taking a lead and charging ruling BSP and its symbol elephant "eating money" given by the Centre.

The BSP campaign was led by state Chief Minister Mayawati, who accused the Centre of ignoring the state. While Akhilesh Yadav, son of SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, took the charge of his party's campaign.

"Campaigning for the first phase of elections, polling for which would be be held on February 8, ended this evening," additional chief electoral officer Mrityunjay Narain said.

He said that polling in 10 districts, including Sitapur, Barabanki, Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Bahraich, Shravasti, Balrampur, Gonda, Siddharth Nagar and Basti would be held amidst tight security arrangements.

In this phase more than 1.70 lakh electorates would seal the fate of 862 candidates in the fray for 55 seats. Narain said that in the first phase 6,855 polling stations have identified as critical and to ensure free and fair elections more than two lakh jawans, including of state
police and central forces, have been deployed.

He said that from on Monday upto end of polling there was would be ban on exit or opinion polls.

The ACEO said that tight vigil would be maintained at borders of districts where polling would be held and special arrangements have been made to check intimidation of electorates.

He said that other than electorates, outsiders would not be allowed in districts going to poll for which searches were being carried out in hotels and other places.

Narain said that the command of the poll process would be in the hands of central forces which would be assisted by state police.

In the first phase 351 polling booths have been selected for webcasting.

This phase would decide the fate of close confidant and cabinet minister Lalji Verma, minister of state Sangram Singh Verma, 31 sitting MLAs, 15 former ministers and relatives of several MPs including Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma.