About 50 percent voter turnout was recorded till 3 pm for the fourth and final phase of the Uttar Pradesh panchayat polls, which is being held on Thursday amid an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases in the state.
Over 5.27 lakh candidates are in the fray for more than 2.10 lakh seats in 17 districts in this round of the election.
”Polling started in the fourth phase at 7 am and will continue till 6 pm. Till 3 pm about 50 percent votes were cast. Polling is going on peacefully,” a State Election Commission (SEC) official said.
While Hapur had the highest polling percentage at 54.60, Banda had the lowest 42.99 percent till 3 pm, the official said. There are over 2.98 crore voters in this phase of the polls.
Uttar Pradesh is among the 10 worst-hit states in terms coronavirus deaths and cases. The state had on Wednesday recorded its highest single-day rise in COVID-19 deaths with 266 people succumbing to the disease, while 29,824 new cases pushed the tally to 11,82,848.
The overall COVID-19 death toll in the state stands at 11,943. Polling is taking place in Ambedkar Nagar, Aligarh, Kushinagar, Kaushambi, Ghazipur, Farrukhabad, Bulandshahr, Basti, Bahraich, Banda, Mau, Mathura, Shahjahanpur, Sambhal, Sitapur, Sonbhadra and Hapur districts.
According to the poll body, 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. While 1,14,400 candidates are in the fray for posts of gram panchayat members, 3,47,436 are fighting for 1,77,648 posts in gram panchayat wards.
The candidates are contesting on ‘free symbols’ given by the SEC. 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 percent turnout. In the third phase of the polls held on April 26, polling percentage of 73.5 was recorded, State Election Commission officials had said.
In view of the coronavirus situation, the SEC had last month announced that not more than five people would be allowed to accompany a candidate during door-to-door campaigning for the panchayat elections.
The Allahabad High Court had asked the Uttar Pradesh government to conclude the panchayat election process by May 25. The counting of votes will take place on May 2.