71 per cent votes cast in UP panchayat polls

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Lucknow, Apr 15 (PTI) Over 70 per cent votes were cast in the first of the four-phased Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections on Thursday, the State Election Commission said.

Four people suffered minor injuries in a clash between two groups at a polling booth in Agra, but there were no reports of any violence from elsewhere in the state, officials said.

'Till 6 pm, 11 per cent votes were cast. While the maximum 80 per cent votes were cast in Jhansi, Shravasti witnessed 64 per cent polling,' the poll panel said.

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 zila panchayat (district council) members, kshetra (block) panchayat members, village panchayat heads and wards.

The districts where the polls were held include Ayodhya, Agra, Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Gorakhpur, Jaunpur, Jhansi, Allahabad, Bareilly, Bhadohi, Mahoba, Rampur, Raebareli, Shravasti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Saharanpur, Hardoi and Hathras.

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, city’s Assistant Superintendent of Police Vivek Tripathi said.

The woman died before she could be rushed to hospital, the ASP said, adding the exact cause of her death would be ascertained only 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 14,789 posts of panchayat heads, there are 1,14,142 candidates in the fray. For gram panchayat wards, there are 1,26,613 candidates for 1,86,583 seats.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, meanwhile, congratulated people on the successful completion of the first phase of the panchayat polls.

'In this pandemic, people participated in the election and strengthened the democracy,' the CM said and appreciated poll personnel for performing their duties.

Apart from parties like the BJP, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party and the Congress, others in the race include the AIMIM, Aam Aadmi Party and Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad's Azad Samaj Party.

The AAP, AIMIM and ASP 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 no 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. PTI ABN RAX RAX