The third phase of polling for 10 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh will decide the electoral fate of four members of the SP patron Mulayam Singh Yadav's clan besides those of senior party leader Azam Khan and film actor and BJP candidate Jaya Prada.
The polling for the third phase is to be held on April 23 for ten Lok Sabha seats in the Rohilkhand region of the state along with 105 other seats across 13 other states.
The BJP, which had won seven out of the ten seats in this region in 2014, has a huge stake in this phase in Uttar Pradesh as the area is considered a SP stronghold as three of the total five members of the Yadav family had won from this region despite a Modi wave in the last elections.
The three Yadav family members who are seeking re-election respectively from Mainpuri, Badaun and Firozabad in this phase are Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav and his two nephews, Dharmendra Yadav and Akshay Yadav.
Pitted against Akshay Yadav, son of Mulayam Singh Yadav's cousin Ram Gopal Yadav, is another brother of the party patriarch, Shivpal Yadav, who has fallen out with SP president Akhilesh Yadav, and fighting from Fiorozabad after floating a new political outfit, Pragateesheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia).
In 2014, Mulayam Singh had won both the Mainpuri and Azamgarh seats, but had vacated the first one, which was won by his another family member Tej Pratap Singh in the subsequent bye-election.
The electoral fortunes of senior SP leader Azam Khan will also be decided in this phase from Rampur which witnessed a new low in campaigning this time.
Known for his controversial statements, Azam Khan made an "indecent" remark, targeting his BJP opponent Jaya Prada in Rampur by allegedly speculating on the colour of her underwear and attracting the saffron party wrath, besides that of the National Commission for Women.
Khan who also faced a 72-hour ban by the Election Commission of India on his campaigning after making the underwear jibe was among the three other leaders, including Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and BSP supremo Mayawati, who faced the poll panel's wrath for making "provocative" speeches.
The other political heavyweights, whose fate are in the poll balance in the third phase of elections here, include Union minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar, who is fighting from Bareilly and BJP's Varun Gandhi from Pilibhit.
With a large area of the Rohilkhand region considered a stronghold of Samajwadi Party, the state's trilateral alliance of the SP, BSP and RLD has left no stone unturned in campaigning in this region.
The campaigning for this phase also saw an unprecedented spectacle of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati sharing dias in Mainpuri, burying their hatchet after 24 years of Lucknow state guest house episode involving an attack by SP workers on Mayawati for withdrawing support from the Samajwadi Party-led government in 1995.
The BSP supremo sought vote for the SP founder, sending a strong signal of a new bonhomie between the two allies, which threatens to upset the BJP's poll cart in Uttar Pradesh.
Resuming her poll campaign after an Election Commission's 48-hour embargo on her political activities, Mayawati also addressed several rallies, including the one in
Rampur for Azam Khan.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi marked his presence in the poll arena in the region, addressing a meeting in Badaun in support of his party candidate Salem Sherwani.
The BJP's poll campaign was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who addressed rallies in Moradabad on April 14 and in Etah and Bareilly on Saturday along with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who too, resuming the 72-hour poll panel's ban on electioneering by him over his Ali-Bajrang Bali remark, criss-crossed several constituencies in the region.
The 10 constituencies going to polls in the third phase are Moradabad, Rampur, Sambhal, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Etah, Budaun, Aonla, Bareilly and Pilibhit.
Though the BJP is pitted in most of these constituencies directly against the SP-BSP-RLD combine, the presence of the Congress and the Shivpal Yadav's PSLP has made the contest triangular in some constituencies.
A total of 1.76 crore voters -- 95.5 lakh males and 80.9 lakh females -- are slated to exercise their franchise in this phase at 20,116 polling booths to decide the fate of 120 candidates in the fray.
There are 2,98,619 first-time voters in the age group of 18-19 years and 2,99,871 voters who are about 80 years of age.