Voting in the fourth and final phase of the panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh began on Thursday amid concerns over Covid surge.

Over 5.27 lakh candidates are in the fray for more than 2.10 lakh seats across 17 districts in this round of the election.

The 17 districts going to polls include Ambedkar Nagar, Aligarh, Kushinagar, Kaushambhi, Ghazipur, Farrukhabad, Bulandshahr, Basti, Bahraich, Banda, Mau, Mathura, Shahjahanpur, Sambhal, Sitapur, Sonbhadra and Hapur.

The state election commission said, in a statement, that more than 2.98 crore voters will cast their votes in the fourth and last phase of the polls which will be held from 7 am to 6 pm.

The SEC statement said that there are 10,679 candidates in the fray for 738 posts of zila panchayat members in the final phase.

A total of 55,408 candidates are contesting for 18,356 posts of kshetra panchayat members.

Meanwhile, 1,14,400 candidates are in the fray for posts of gram panchayat members and 3,47,436 contestants are fighting for 1,77,648 posts in gram panchayat wards.

It may be recalled that in the first phase of the polls held on April 15, an average polling percentage of 71 was recorded. The second phase of the polls on April 19 also saw over 71 per cent polling.

The third phase of the polls on April 26, recorded a polling percentage of 73.5.

The candidates are contesting on ‘free symbols’ given by the State Election Commission.

Meanwhile, more than 170 people, including three candidates for village pradhan posts (gram panchayat), have been charged under the Disaster Management Act, for flouting Covid-19 protocols, at different police stations in Aligarh in the past 24 hours.

Kalanidhi Naithani, senior superintendent of police, Aligarh, said in a statement that, “All the three candidates were holding rallies and processions wherein none of the participants were wearing masks,”

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

At the district level, chief medical officers have been made nodal officers to emphasize on following the Covid-19 protocol.

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

The counting of votes will take place on May 2. For the counting, thermal scanners will be put into use at almost all counting centres to check the candidates and their agents before they are allowed to enter the counting centre.

–IANS

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