Lucknow/ Dehradun: Polling began this morning in 67 Assembly constituencies and 69 seats of the Uttarakhand today morning.

The districts where polling is on amid tight security arrangements are Saharanpur, Bijnor, Moradabad, Sambhal, Rampur, Bareilly, Amroha, Pilibhit, Kheri, Shahjahanpur and Badaun.

Official sources said here that elaborate arrangements have been made for free and fair polling.

Of the 67 seats at stake, ruling Samajwadi Party had won 34 in 2012, followed by BSP 18, BJP 10, Congress three and others two.

In this phase, 720 candidates are in the fray with a maximum of 22 from Barhapur (Bijnor) and a minimum of four nominees from Dhanaura (Amroha).

Prominent contestants include controversial SP minister Azam Khan and his son Abdullah Azam, who are contesting from Rampur and Swar seats respectively, Saif Ali Naqvi, son of former Congress MP Zafar Ali Naqvi, former central minister Jitin Prasada from Tilhar (Shahjahanpur), BJP Legislature Party leader Suresh Kumar Khanna from Shahjahanpur city and state minister Mehboob Ali from Amroha.

The fate of these candidates will be decided by 2.28 crore voters, including over 1.04 crore women, eligible to cast their ballots in 14,771 polling centres and 23,693 polling stations.

The Election Commission has barred political parties and candidates from publishing advertisements in newspapers today and tomorrow without its approval. The EC has asked them to get the advertisements pre-certified from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee at the state and district levels before their publication.

The poll body said the decision has been taken in view of past instances of advertisements of offending and misleading nature in print media on such occasions which vitiate the elections.

The next five phases of polling will be held on February 19, 23, 27 and on March 4 and 8. Counting of votes will be taken up on March 11.

This is the fourth assembly poll in the hill state Uttarakhand where 75,13,547 voters will decide the fate of 628 candidates. Polling in Karnprayag has been suspended for now due to the death of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate.

Voting will now be held on this seat on March 9, said the Election Commission official. Postal ballots will be received till March 11 morning, the day of vote counting. Chief Electoral Officer Radha Raturi informed that there are 10,685 polling stations in the state of which 460 are in the hilly snowy regions while 287 are in shadow areas.

The state capital here has the maximum number of polling stations (1,725) while Rudraprayag the least with 312. A total of 1,409 polling stations have been put in the very sensitive list while 1,424 have been marked as sensitive.

Videography is being done at 221 places while photography of the poll process is being done at 2,012 polling centres along with webcasting at 197 places. The highest polling station is in Yamunotri at 9,800 feet above sea level. Heavy security deployment has been made at all the polling stations with CRPF being deployed at 1,285 polling stations.

--IANS