Lucknow, Apr 14 (PTI) Voting for the first of the four-phase Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections, seen as a semi-final to the 2022 Assembly election, will be held on Thursday in 18 districts with ballot papers.
More than 3.33 lakh candidates in the fray in over 2.21 lakh seats in the first phase for the posts of zila panchayat (district council) members, kshetra (block) panchayat members, village panchayat heads and wards.
Polling will take place from 7 am to 6 pm.
The districts that will go to polls are Ayodhya, Agra, Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Gorakhpur, Jaunpur, Jhansi, Allahabad, Bareilly, Bhadohi, Mahoba, Rampur, Raebareli, Shravasti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Saharanpur, Hardoi and Hathras.
For the post of zila panchayat members, 11,442 candidates are in the fray from 779 wards, while as many as 81,747 candidates are contesting in 19,313 wards of kshetra panchayats.
For the gram panchayat, there are 1,14,142 candidates for 14,789 posts. For gram panchayat wards, there are 1,26,613 candidates for 1,86,583 seats.
Apart from parties like the BJP, BSP, Samajwadi Party and the Congress, among those in the race are the AIMIM, Aam Aadmi Party and Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad’s Azad Samaj Party, which are making their debut in the state. The AIMIM will contest polls with the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party
The candidates will, however, contest on ‘free symbols’ given the the Election Commission.
Congress state spokesperson Ashok Singh said the panchayat elections would spring a surprise in the state as it would perform “brilliantly” in the state.
“People who are virtually fed up with the misrule and misgovernance of the four-year-old BJP government in UP are looking towards the Congress with hope in their eyes,” Singh said. “The panchayat elections will unfurl the wave of change in the state.”
Reacting to it, BJP state media co-convenor Navin Srivastava said: “The way in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath have worked for the villagers, poor and farmers, it is evident that the BJP will sweep the panchayat polls.”
“The work done by the government in arranging ration and employment for lakhs of people who migrated back to UP during the corona pandemic will help the BJP to win the election,” Srivastava said.
In view of the coronavirus situation, the State Election Commission (SEC) had said in March that not more than five people would be allowed to accompany a candidate during door-to-door campaigning for the panchayat elections.
Additional Election Commissioner Ved Prakash Verma said a three-member team was formed under the additional district magistrates to ensure the directives issued by the SEC were being followed.
At the district-level, the chief medical officers have been made nodal officers and stress has been laid on COVID-19 prevention.
During polling, the voters will have to put up a mask and maintain social distancing. Instructions have also been issued to make circles at a distance of six-feet at the polling centres.
Verma said COVID-19 norms would also be followed during counting of votes and PPE kits would also be arranged as per requirement.
The Allahabad High Court had asked the state government to complete the panchayat-election process by May 25.