India’s biggest state goes to the polls
By News Desk
17 February 2017

NEW DELHI (Dataleads/ANN) - Uttar Pradesh polls will be a major test of Prime Minister Modi's popularity — and his surprise currency decree that sparked financial uproar.

As the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is heading to elections to choose a new government, it holds huge political sway.

Commonly called UP (Uttar Pradesh), the state is India's most populous state, with more than 200 million people. If it were a country, it would be the fifth-largest by population in the world after China, India, the United States and Indonesia.

The home of majestic Taj Mahal and India's holiest city, Varanasi, UP has 403 Assembly constituencies and 80 parliamentary constituencies making it the most important state to form the government at the national level. Of 403 legislative assembly seats, 85 are reserved for candidates belonging to scheduled caste.

The Indian National Congress (INC) has dominated the state's politics since India’s independence in 1947. However, in late nineties the rise of regional parties like Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) challenged the traditional political base of the INC in the state. 

Over three quarters of the population in the state are rural and the state has the highest percentage of Dalits - traditionally seen as the lowest in India's caste system.

In the previous poll, held in 2012, 6,839 candidates from 222 political parties were in the fray. The Samajwadi Party won 224 seats and formed an alliance with the Congress party to rule the state.

Both the parties have again formed alliance to win the poll. They have been holding joint election rallies, promising good governance, state development and free health schemes and smartphones for people.

But this time, the BJP is making a serious bid for win. The party is banking on the popularity and charisma of Prime Minister Modi to win the polls. Modi has been campaigning in the state, addressing election rallies and exhorting voters to give BJP a chance.

The polls are also being seen as a referendum on Modi's recent move to ban rupee 500 ($7) and rupee 1,000 ($14) currency notes. The currency ban sparked financial uproar in the country.

Despite its political significance, UP remains among India's most poor and backward states, infested with corruption and crime.  The poverty-stricken state is home to 8% of the world’s poor. And according to the last census report, only half the state's women are literate, well below the national average.

The poll results will be announced on March 11 along with other four Indian states, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur.

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