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UP Panchayat Polls: 71% Voter Turnout, COVID Norms Flouted

Visuals showed voters, many without masks, standing in packed queues at the polling stations.

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The much-awaited panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh began on Thursday, 15 April, with the first phase of polling in 18 districts.
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The first phase of panchayat polls in 18 districts of Uttar Pradesh started on Thursday, 15 April, with 3.33 lakh candidates in the fray in over 2.21 lakh seats for the posts of Zila Panchayat (district council) members, Kshetra (block) Panchayat members and Village Panchayat heads and wards. The first phase of the polls recorded a 71% voter turnout.

The districts to go to polls are Ayodhya, Agra, Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Gorakhpur, Jaunpur, Jhansi, Prayagraj, Bareilly, Bhadohi, Mahoba, Rampur, Rae Bareli, Shravasti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Saharanpur, Hardoi, and Hathras.

The highest voter turnout was Kanpur Nagar with 75%, followed by Ghaziabad at 74%, and Bareilly at 73%.

The average voting in all 18 districts till 5 pm was around 61 percent. At 5 pm, Kanpur recorded 59.73 percent polling, reported The Times of India.

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Repolling was ordered in two booths in Agra and Kanpur Nagar after clashes were reported, said UP Election Commission Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Satish Kumar Singh to The Indian Express.

While COVID protocols have been laid down for polling that is underway amid a surge of COVID cases in the state, visuals emerging from various districts showed that they were not being adhered to.

Meanwhile, there are 11,442 candidates contesting from 779 wards for the post of Zila Panchayat members, while as many as 81,747 candidates are contesting from 19,313 wards of Kshetra Panchayats.

While for the Gram Panchayat, there are 1,14,142 candidates for 14,789; for the Gram Panchayat wards, there are 1,26,613 candidates for 1,86,583 seats, reported IANS.

The panchayat elections are being held through ballet papers.

Panchayat Rival Shot

As per an IANS report, a candidate for village head, Gilgil Dubey was shot by a poll rival Shambhu Yadav, who is re-contesting for the post of head of Mahuadabar village under Khajni police circle. Dubey is now recuperating in a hospital, but is in serious condition.

He was shot when he was returning home on Wednesday night, 14 April, his brother told IANS. Meanwhile, Yadav has been detained for questioning.

Why Re-poll in Agra and Kanpur Nagar?

Fatehabad Station House Officer (SHO) Pradeep Kumar told The Indian Express that a case against seven people in Agra's Fatehabad has been filed for allegedly fleeing with a ballot box. The SHO added that it was over a dispute for the post of gram pradhan in Rihavali village.

Kanpur's SP, Ashtabhuja Singh told The Indian Express that a case has been filed against three people from Pipragaon village in Bidnu police station for allegedly manhandling an election official because they found them to be partial to one side, and then pouring water over the ballot box.

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Contesting Parties

Parties like the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Bhim Army Chief’s Azad Samaj Party are debuting in the elections, competing against the BJP, BSP, Samajwadi Party, and the Congress.

The AIMIM is contesting polls along with the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party, using the 'free symbols' given by the Election Commission.

Congress state spokesperson Ashok Singh said that his party's brilliant performance would spring a surprise in UP. He said, "People who are virtually fed up with the misrule and misgovernance over the four-year-old BJP government in UP are looking at the Congress with hope in their eyes," quoted IANS.

On the other hand, BJP state media convenor Navin Srivastava, has complete conviction in a sweeping victory. "The manner in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath have worked for the villagers, the poor and farmers, it is evident that the BJP will sweep the panchayat polls,” he noted, according to the report.

EC’s COVID Protocols...

The State Election Commission (SEC) had in March restricted politicians from having more than five people accompany them during door-to-door campaigning.

Additional Election Commissioner Ved Prakash Verma had notified the media that a three-member team had been formed under additional district magistrates to ensure compliance of COVID norms, as well as the supply of PPE as per requirement, added the report.

Voters were, thereby, expected to maintain social distancing and wear a mask. Markings were made to maintain a distance of six feet at polling centres.

Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday, 14 April, reported 20,510 new COVID positive cases, taking the tally in the state to 1,11,835.

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...Flouted

Visuals showed jam-packed crowds, zero social distancing and many voters without masks at the polling stations, indicating that the COVID protocols were easily flouted.

Prayagraj

Prayagraj voters stand in snugly-packed queues as the second wave of the pandemic surges.
Prayagraj voters stand in snugly-packed queues as the second wave of the pandemic surges.
(Photo: PTI)

Gorakhpur

Gorakhpur voters stand in snugly-packed queues as the second wave of the pandemic surges.
Gorakhpur voters stand in snugly-packed queues as the second wave of the pandemic surges.
(Photo: PTI)

Agra

Agra voters stand in snugly-packed queues as the second wave of the pandemic surges.
Agra voters stand in snugly-packed queues as the second wave of the pandemic surges.
(Photo: PTI)

Bareilly

Bareilly voters stand in snugly-packed queues as the second wave of the pandemic surges.
Bareilly voters stand in snugly-packed queues as the second wave of the pandemic surges.
(Photo: Hindi Quint)

(With inputs from IANS, The Indian Express and The Times of India)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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