Uttar Pradesh Election 2017 LIVE: Half of western UP's voters have cast their ballot

As the assembly elections begin in 73 constituencies of UP, we bring you Uttar Pradesh Election 2017 LIVE.

Uttar Pradesh Election 2017 LIVE: Half of western UP

In the first of the seven phases of the Uttar Pradesh Election 2017, the voting has begun today from 7 am in 73 constituencies of the state and  52 per cent of the votes have been polled till 3 PM.

Around 2.6 crore voters of the state are expected to cast their votes in 26,823 polling booths of the 73 constituencies in this phase of the Uttar Pradesh Election 2017 to decide the fate of 839 candidates.

By 11 am, 24 per cent voter turnout recorded in Agra, 24 per cent in Bulandshahr, 27 per cent in Muzaffarnagar, 18 per cent in Noida, 21 per cent in Firozabad, 21 per cent in Shikohabad, 19 per cent in Jasrana, 22 per cent in Tundla, 20 per cent in Sirsaganj, 27.17 per cent in Etah, 28 per cent in Marhera, and 26.33 per cent in Jalesar.

According to India Today report, Congress and Samajwadi Party supporters clashed outside the polling booth in Aligarh.

For the 403 Assembly seats of the state, the elections are to be held in 7 phases and are believed to be semi-finals before the 2019 national election. The pressure today is on the BJP which swept the region in the 2014 national election, but now faces a test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's notes ban, that resulted in a cash crunch seen to hit hardest the rural poor, who make up a big chunk of UP's voters.

Opponents like Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and partner Congress and Mayawati's BSP have spared no chance to attack the BJP on the impact of demonetisation. The BJP, SP-Congress alliance and the BSP are in a very close contest in western UP, with Ajit Singh of the Rashtriya Lok Dal or RLD hoping to consolidate some of the Jat votes once again and push back into political relevance.

Interestingly, BJP has not projected any chief ministerial candidate for the UP elections and has based its campaign only on PM Modi's appeal. It has picked candidates after surveys and assessments and has faced protests from party workers for fielding candidates who it has recently imported from other parties.

The subject of heavy criticism and attacks from opposition, demonetisation, has been a burning topic fo BJP too. PM Modi in his campaign has repeatedly said that in banning 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, a move aimed at eliminating black or undeclared money, he had the interests of the poor at heart. A strong showing in UP, country's most populous state, would strengthen his chances of a second term in 2019.

The BJP polled 42 per cent of the vote in Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 general election, sweeping 71 out of 80 seats. In the region voting today, it had won Lok Sabha seats equal to over 65 of the 73 assembly segments.

The ruling Samajwadi Party is led by 43-year-old Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav who rebelled against his father and has teamed up with the Congress in a strong combination. The SP had won a majority in the last state assembly election, in 2012, with just 29 per cent of the vote. 28 per cent of the electorate have their cast their votes in Agra.

Technical snags in the electronic voting machines (EVMs) were reported in the first hour in polling booths across Noida, Baghpat, Hathras and Mathura.

Both the BJP and the Samajwadi Party-Congress combine insist that today's contest is between them with the BSP not really in the picture.However, BSP chief Mayawati claims there is BSP wave according to early voting trends.

Votes for all seven phases will be counted on March 11.