61 per cent votes cast in UP panchayat polls till 5 pm

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Lucknow, Apr 15 (PTI) Over 60 per cent votes were cast in the first round of the four-phased Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections on Thursday till 5 pm, with an hour of polling still remaining, the State Election Commission said.

Four people suffered minor injuries in a clash between two groups at a booth in Agra, but the polling was largely peaceful in the state, officials said.

'Till 5 pm, 61 per cent votes were cast. While the maximum 69.75 per cent votes were cast in Jhansi, Shravasti witnessed 53 per cent polling. All those who come to vote till 6 pm will be allowed to vote,' the State Election Commission (SEC) said here.

More than 3.33 lakh candidates are in the fray in over 2.21 lakh seats in the first phase of the polls for the posts of zila panchayat (district council) members, kshetra (block) panchayat members, village panchayat heads and wards.

The polling, which was done with ballot papers, was held in the districts of Ayodhya, Agra, Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Gorakhpur, Jaunpur, Jhansi, Allahabad, Bareilly, Bhadohi, Mahoba, Rampur, Raebareli, Shravasti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Saharanpur, Hardoi and Hathras.

Meanwhile, four people were injured and two ballot boxes were snatched in the clash between two groups in Rihawali village of Agra Rural constituency, SP (East) Ashok Venkat said.

He said the clash broke out between supporters of candidates fighting for the gram pradhan post following which the two ballot boxes were snatched away.

SSP (Agra) Muniraj told reporters that eight people have been arrested so far and further probe is on.

District Magistrate Prabhu Narayan Singh said he would request for repolling at the affected booth.

In Jhansi, polling officer Nirmala Sahu, posted at Jauri Bujurg, a polling centre in Badagaon block, died after she complained of uneasiness, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), City, Vivek Tripathi said.

The woman died before she could be rushed to hospital, the ASP said, adding that the exact cause of her death could be ascertained after post-mortem.

A total of 11,442 candidates are in the fray from 779 wards for the post of zila panchayat members in the first phase, while 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, Bahujan Samaj Party, 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 is contesting the polls with the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party.

The candidates are contesting on 'free symbols' given by the SEC.

The panchayat polls are also seen as a semi-final to the 2022 state assembly election.

In view of the coronavirus situation, the SEC had earlier said that not more than five people would be allowed to accompany a candidate during door-to-door campaigning for the panchayat elections.

The voting for the second phase will be on April 19, the third on April 26 and the fourth phase on April 29, while the votes will be counted on May 2 along with the assembly election results of five states.