Polling for the first phase of the Uttar Pradesh Panchayat elections will be held in 18 districts amid an unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases, with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath himself getting infected.
Polling began at 7am and is set to last till 6pm on April 15, i.e., Thursday. The Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections, wherein over 5.56 lakh voters will exercise their right to vote, are being conducted in four phases from April 15-29.
In this phase, over 3.33 lakh candidates are in the fray for over 2.21 lakh seats for posts of zila panchyat (district council) members, kshetra (block) panchayat members, village panchyat heads and wards. The 18 districts where voting will take place today are Ayodhya, Agra, Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Gorakhpur, Jaunpur, Jhansi, Allahabad, Bareilly, Bhadohi, Mahoba, Rampur, Raebareli, Shravasti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Saharanpur, Hardoi and Hathras.
People stand in a queue at a polling booth in Ayodhya as they await their turn to cast vote for the first phase of Uttar Pradesh Panchayat polls. pic.twitter.com/XMfHokaTqr— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) April 15, 2021
Gorakhpur: Residents of Vantangia villages cast their votes for panchayat polls, for the first time ever. The villages were declared revenue village by CM Yogi Adityanath in 2018. Voting for the first phase of UP Panchayat polls are being held today. pic.twitter.com/kzfr5GmeZa— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) April 15, 2021
First phase of Uttar Pradesh Panchayat polls begins today. Visuals from Ajitpur Primary School - designated as a polling booth - in Rampur. pic.twitter.com/tnP4ahqdUa— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) April 15, 2021
Parties like the BJP, BSP, Samajwadi Party, Congress, AIMIM, Aam Aadmi party and the Bhim Army are contesting these elections, which are being seen as the semi-final before the 2022 UP Assembly elections.
Voters will have to wear a face mask and maintain social distancing to curb COVID-19 transmission. Circles will be made at a distance of six-feet at polling centres to maintain social distancing.
Counting of votes will take place on May 2. Additional Election Commissioner Ved Prakash Verma said COVID-19 safety norms will be observed while counting of votes and PPE kits will also be arranged as per requirement.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 crisis continues to hit normal life in India's most populous state as over 1.11 lakh active cases were reported, which comprise 20,510 new COVID-19 cases and 4,517 recoveries in the last 24 hours. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, his Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Abhishek Kaushik, Uttar Pradesh minister Ashutosh Tandon and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Edited by Mehak Agarwal; with PTI inputs