Lucknow : The final round of the seven-phased Uttar Pradesh assembly elections Tuesday will see more criminals than in any previous leg since the staggered polls commenced April 7.
According to a study by Election Watch, a NGO headed by former state director general of police I.C. Dwivedi, as many as 162 of the 934 contestants face criminal charges.
Unlike the previous phases when the bulk of tainted nominees belonged to marginal political outfits or were independents, this time a substantial number are from major political parties.
"Eighty seven of the candidates with criminal antecedents belong to major political parties," Dwivedi said.
The ruling Samajwadi Party tops the list with 32 tainted candidates, followed by 19 of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)-Apna Dal combine, Bahujan Samaj Party's (BSP) 20 and Congress party's 16.
Of the state's 403 constituencies, 59 would see balloting Tuesday to complete the longest state election in the country.
Counting of votes would follow May 11 to herald the formation of the next government in India's most populous state.
Alarmingly, there are 16 constituencies having more than four candidates with criminal antecedents. Deoria tops the list with eight such contestants.
The Election Watch study confirms that while several tainted contestants were involved only in law and order violations, a few were linked to grave offences including murder, attempt to murder, rape, culpable homicide and kidnapping.
Apna Dal nominee from Akbarpur Pawan Pandey tops the tainted list with as many as 63 criminal cases pending against him.
Samajwadi Party's I.P. Tiwari (Ayodhya) faces 29 cases followed by BSP's K.K. alias Kukku from Isauli with 28 cases and Amarmani Tripathi from Laxmipur with eight cases of heinous crimes.
The dossiers notwithstanding, top leaders of all political parties were out to campaign for their respective tainted nominees in a big way.
These included Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was holding at least a dozen meetings in a day to push the prospects of the Samajwadi Party.
BSP chief Mayawati is leaving no stone unturned to woo voters in every nook and corner of the vast expanse of eastern Uttar Pradesh's nine districts where the final round of poll is slated.
BJP national president Raj Nath Singh had been camping in Gorakhpur for the past three days to save time on his helicopter sorties to different destinations in the region.