Lucknow: Samajwadi Party surged ahead in Uttar Pradesh, leading in 32 seats and BJP sprung a surprise by coming a close second with leads in 26 seats, as counting for votes began for the 403-strong state Assembly.

In the early trends available for 85 seats, Congress emerged third leading in 11 seats while the ruling BSP was relegated to the fourth spot, only ahead in 10 seats.

"Counting for all 403 seats has started at 8 am and will continue till all results are announced amidst tight security arrangements," Chief Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha said.

Congress faces an uphill task in reviving its fortunes in the Mayawati-ruled Uttar Pradesh where its campaign was led from the front by Rahul Gandhi.

Congress is contesting 357 seats in the state out of 403 seats where it won 22 seats in the 2007 state polls.

The ruling BSP, which won 206 in last elections, in UP has contested all 403 seats, SP 402, BJP 398 and RLD 46. Exit polls have predicted a hung assembly in the state with the SP showed as cornering the major chunk of seats.

In 2007 polls, SP had got 97 seats, BJP 50 and RLD, which contested in alliance with BJP won 10 seats. Independents and others had got 17 seats.

Among candidates who were leading in the initial trends were Apna Dal general secretary Anupriya Patel in Rohaniya, BJP vice-president Kalraj Mishra on Lucknow East, Shivpal Singh Yadav on Jaswantnagar, Gopal Tandon on Lucknow North, whereas UPPCC president Rita Bahuguna Joshi and cabinet minister Nakul Dubey were trailing on Lucknow Cantt and Bakshi ka Talab seats respectively.

Fate of more than 6,500 candidates would be decided on Tuesday as counting for the assembly seats for which polling was held in seven-phases started here this morning.

The CEO has already directed the district level officers to prepare a foolproof security plan in and around counting centres.

He said that 100 metre periphery of all counting centres have been declared no vehicle zones.

The fate of 6839 candidates, who are in fray for 403 seats in the state will be decided. In the last assembly elections held in 2007, 6086 candidates contested the polls.

Today's results will decide both the king and the king maker in this politically volatile state, where exit polls have predicted a cracked verdict.

Stakes are high for all the major political parties including BJP, BSP, SP and Congress-RLD alliance as there was multicornered contest on a number of seats.

The results would decide the political fates of stalwarts like Union Ministers Beni Prasad Verma, Sriprakash Jaiswal, Salman Khurshid, Congress' UP Incharge Digvijay Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh Yadav, besides Uma Bharati and the incumbent Mayawati.

This would also decide whether the factor of jailed former minister Babu Singh Kushwaha's worked. Khushwaha had campaigned in favour of BJP candidates, worked in favour of the party especially in Bundelkhand region.

It would also decide whether Mayawati's social engineering formula that catapulted her to power still holds.

The poll results would also be a litmus test for Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who campaigned extensively across UP.

He criss-crossed the state, addressing 211 rallies and held roadshows in 18 constituencies for more than three months between November 14 last year to February 29.

BJP, which not only fielded senior leaders in polls, is hoping to better its tally this time. The party is expecting that high voter turnout would work in changing its fortunes in the crucial elections.

This year, UP registers record polling in all seven phases. An average 59.17 percent polling was registered which is a record in electoral politics of the state.

In last elections, while BSP won absolute majority with 206 seats, SP, which was the ruling party before 2007 elections, was reduced to 97, BJP got 51 and Congress 22.

Prominent candidates, whose fate would be decided include Kalraj Mishra, Uma Bharati, Surya Pratap Shahi, Kesari Nath Tripathi, Hukum Singh of BJP, Pramod Tiwari, Louis Khurshid of Congress, Sukhdeo Rajbhar, Swami Prasad Maurya, Ramveer Singh of BSP, Mata Prasad Pandey, Shivpal Singh Yadav, Mohd Azam Khan of SP and Jayant Chowdhary of RLD.

(Agencies)