Voting for the third phase of the panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh has begun on Monday with more than 3.52 lakh candidates in the fray for over 2.14 lakh seats across 20 districts of the state.
According to the State Election Commission (SEC), voting is being held in Shamli, Meerut, Moradabad, Pilibhit, Kasganj, Firozabad, Aurraiya, Kanpur Dehat, Jalaun, Hamirpur, Fatehpur, Unnao, Amethi, Barabanki, Balrampur, Siddhartha Nagar, Deoria, Chandauli, Mirzapur and Ballia.
For the posts of 746 members of zila panchayats, there are 10,627 candidates in the fray.
For the 18,530 posts of members of kshetra panchayats, there are 89,188 candidates and as many as 1,177,89 candidates are contesting for 14,397 village panchayat posts.
For 1,80,473 village panchayat wards, there are 1,34,510 candidates contesting the polls.
The candidates will contest on “free symbols” given by the State Election Commission (SEC).
In the first phase of the polls, which was held on April 15, an average polling percentage of 71 was recorded.
The second phase of polls held on April 19 also saw over 71 per cent of polling.
According to the SEC, the 2015 panchayat polls had registered a polling percentage of 72.11.
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 the door-to-door campaigning for the panchayat elections.
Additional Election Commissioner Ved Prakash Verma said three-member teams had been formed under the additional district magistrates to ensure that directives issued by the SEC were being followed.
At the district level, the chief medical officers have been made 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 maintaining a distance of six feet between voters standing in the queue.
Verma said COVID-19 norms would also 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.