India state elections: Uttar Pradesh holds sixth phase

Congress rally in Uttar Pradesh on 3 Feb 2012
Image caption Nearly 126 million voters are eligible to cast ballots in Uttar Pradesh

Election officials say voter turnout for the sixth phase of assembly elections in India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, was 57%.

More than 20 million people were eligible to vote in this stage of the seven-phase elections.

Votes were being cast for 68 seats in 13 districts amid tight security, election officials said.

These elections are expected to be a litmus test ahead of national elections, which are due in 2014.

Uttar Pradesh is governed by Chief Minister Mayawati, a low-caste Dalit icon from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

If it were a separate country, Uttar Pradesh would be the fifth-largest in the world by population, with more than 200 million people.

Polling began at 07:00 (01:30 GMT) on Tuesday.

Voters in Ghaziabad, Indirapuram, Sahibabad and Noida, which are close to Indian capital, Delhi, were able to vote in this sixth phase.

The average turnout in the 2007 state election was 46% and election officials have organised various events over recent months to bring more voters to the booth.

An election official said that despite a few minor incidents, voting had passed off peacefully.

Both Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty have campaigned hard in the state in an effort to revive the Congress party's presence.

Some polls have suggested that Congress could increase its vote and may hope to ally with the other strong regional force, the Samajwadi Party, to oppose Ms Mayawati.

The state, one of India's least-developed, sends the largest number of MPs to parliament and has provided the country with eight prime ministers since independence in 1947.

Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa were also voting in this round of state elections. Results for all the states will be announced on 6 March.

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