UP panchayat polls: Moderate turnout till 1 PM

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Lucknow, Apr 19 (PTI) Moderate polling was recorded in the first six hours of voting on Monday for the second phase of the Uttar Pradesh panchayat polls in 20 districts where 3.48 lakh candidates are in the fray for over 2.23 lakh posts.

While Gautam Buddh Nagar recorded the highest polling percentage of 48 per cent till 1 PM, Gonda recorded the lowest at 25 per cent.

Among the other districts, Muzaffarnagar recorded 40.06 per cent, Baghpat 41.07 per cent, Bijnor 41.02 per cent, Amroha 43.02 per cent, Badaun 36 per cent, Etah 36.07 per cent, Mainpuri 38.05 per cent, Kannauj 38.02 per cent, Etawah 38.04 per cent, Lalitpur 37.06 per cent, Chitrakoot 30.98 per cent, Pratapgarh 30.37 per cent, Lucknow 38 per cent, Lakhimpur Kheri 39.55 per cent, Sultanpur 30.78 per cent, Maharajganj 39.05 per cent, Varanasi 35 per cent and Azamgarh 39.06 per cent, officials said.

Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav did not exercise his franchise in his native Saifai village in Etawah district following request from family members to keep his safety in mind in view of the pandemic.

According to family sources, the 81-year-old had till now never missed voting in any election.

'We requested Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) not to come to Saifai to cast his vote this time for the panchayat elections in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and he agreed to our request. Netaji is in Delhi,' his nephew Dharmendra Yadav told PTI.

BJP MLA from Lambhua in Sultanpur Devmani Dwivedi said he could not cast his vote as his name was not in the voters' list.

'Barring me, names of my other family members including my mother, who is no more, were in the voters' list,' Dwivedi told PTI. Violence was reported in Etah where Praveen Kumar, husband of a village pradhan candidate, Suman Yadav, from Bhagipur was shot at and injured by unidentified assailants on Sunday night.

SHO of Kotwali police station, Subhash Katheria, said the incident took place near Shikohabad road.

Polling started at 7 am and will be held till 6 pm on Monday and over 3.23 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise.

In the second of the four-phase election, polling is being held in Lucknow, Varanasi, Amroha, Azamgarh, Etawah, Etah, Kannauj, Gonda, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Chitrakoot, Pratapgarh, Badaun, Baghpat, Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar, Mainpuri, Maharajganj, Lakhimpur Kherm, For the 787 posts of member of zila panchayat, there are 11,483 candidates and for the 19,653 seats of kshetra panchayat, as many as 85,232 candidates are in the fray.

As far as the gram panchayats are concerned, there are 1,21,906 candidates for 14,897 posts and for the gram panchayat wards, there are as many as 1,30,305 candidates for 1,87,781 posts.

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

More than 2.31 lakh poll officials have been deployed by the State Election Commission (SEC) for a smooth conduct of the panchayat polls.

In the first phase of the polls, which was held on April 15, an average polling percentage of 71 was recorded.

The 2015 panchayat polls had registered a polling percentage of 72.11, according to the SEC.

In view of the coronavirus situation, the SEC had said last month 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 three-member teams were formed under the additional district magistrates to ensure that the directives issued by the SEC were being followed.

At the district level, the chief medical officers have been made the nodal officers and stress has been laid on COVID-19 prevention.

Voters will mandatorily have to wear masks and maintain social distancing at polling booths. Instructions have also been issued to make circles and maintaining a distance of six feet between voters standing in the queue.

Verma said COVID-19 norms would be followed during the counting of votes and personal protective equipment (PPE) kits would be arranged according to requirements.

The Allahabad High Court had asked the Uttar Pradesh government to conclude the panchayat election process by May 25. PTI NAV DV DV