Several BJP MLAs and MPs, including Kaushal Kishor, have appealed to the Election Commission to postpone the Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections stating that the polling could become a “super spreader” amid the recent surge in coronavirus cases in the state.
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 SEC’s directives were being followed.
The chief medical officers have been made nodal officers and stress has been laid on COVID-19 prevention at the district level.
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.
Voting for the Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections, beginning on Thursday, will be held in four phases — April April 15, April 19, April 26 and April 29. Polling will take place from 7 am to 6 pm in 18 districts. 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. For zila panchayat members a total of 11,442 candidates are in the fray 779 wards while 81,747 candidates are contesting in 19,313 wards of kshetra panchayats. There are 1,14,142 candidates for 14,789 posts for gram panchayat and 1,26,613 candidates for 1,86,583 seats for gram panchayat wards. The counting of votes will take place on May 2.
The fight for the polls includes bigger political parties like the BJP, BSP, Samajwadi Party and the Congress, and AIMIM, Aam Aadmi Party and Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad’s Azad Samaj Party, which will make their electoral debut. The candidates will, however, contest on ‘free symbols’ given by the Election Commission.
Candidates for the elections include Miss India 2015 contestant and model Diksha Singh contesting for Zila panchayat post from Ward 26 of Jaunpur and BJP MP and wife of politician and murder accused Dhananjay Singh from Ward 45 of Jaunpur. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav's niece Sandhya Yadav is also in the fray and interestingly has the backing of BJP for the Mainpuri panchayat seat. In a major turn of event, BJP has withdrawn Sangeeta Sengar, wife of former BJP MLA and Unnao rape accused Kuldeep Singh Sengar days after declaring her the official candidate.
Here’s the list of districts that will go to polls in phase 1:
Ayodhya Agra Kanpur Ghaziabad Gorakhpur Jaunpur Jhansi Allahabad Bareilly Bhadohi Mahoba Rampur Raebareli Shravasti Sant Kabir Nagar Saharanpur Hardoi Hathras
Congress has expressed confidence and said the panchayat polls will be a “surprise” and will perform “brilliantly.” “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,” said party spokesperson Ashok Singh. “The panchayat elections will unfurl the wave of change in the state.”
Citing the prime minister and chief minister’s efforts for the poor, BJP said the saffron party will “sweep” the panchayat polls. “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,” said BJP state media co-convenor Navin Srivastava.