Amid a surge in Covid-19 cases, voting for the first of the four-phase Uttar Pradesh Gram Panchayat poll began on Thursday in the 18 districts with ballot papers under tight security.
The four-phased election will elect around 8 lakh rural representatives. As many as 11,442 candidates are in the fray for 779 wards of Zila Panchayats, 81,717 candidates in 19313 wards of Kshetra Panchayats and 1,14,113 candidates are contesting for the post of chairman in 14,789 Gram panchayats.
In the first phase, more than 3.33 lakh candidates are in the fray in over 2.21 lakh seats for the posts of Zila Panchayat (district council) members, Kshetra (block) Panchayat members, village panchayat heads, and wards.
As many as 11,442 candidates are in the fray from 779 wards for the post of Zila panchayat members, while as many as 81,747 candidates are contesting in 19,313 wards of Kshetra Panchayats, 1,14,142 candidates for 14,789 posts for the gram panchayat, and 1,26,613 candidates for 1,86,583 seats for gram panchayat wards.
Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Gorakhpur, Ayodhya, Agra, Jaunpur, Jhansi, Allahabad, Bareilly, Bhadohi, Mahoba, Sant Kabir Nagar, Saharanpur, Rampur, Raebareli, Shravasti, Hardoi, and Hathras are among the 18 districts where polls are underway in the first phase.
Till 11 am, nearly 20 percent voter turnout was recorded, of which Rampur recorded over 22 percent while Hardoi recorded nearly 17 percent. While Ghaziabad and Gorakhpur witnessed over 9.94 percent and 9.8 percent turnout respectively. Apart from them, 8.75 percent turnout was recorded in Bhadohi, 8.6 percent in Raebareli, 10 percent in Ayodhya, 9.6 percent in Agra, and 9.63 percent in Hathras.
The political parties BJP, BSP, Samajwadi Party, and the Congress, are among those who are confident contestants in the race. Besides them, the AIMIM, Aam Aadmi Party, and Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad’s Azad Samaj Party are making their debut in the state.
Meanwhile, the Covid -19 protocols are put in place in the ongoing polls in view of the rising cases in the state. Considering the prevailing circumstances, the Allahabad High Court had asked the state government to complete the panchayat-election process by May 25.
However, several BJP MLAs and MPs, including Kaushal Kishor, had earlier appealed to the Election Commission to postpone the Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections stating that the polling could become a super spreader amid the recent surge in coronavirus cases in the state.