Voting for the second phase of the Uttar Pradesh panchayat polls began on Monday with more than 3.48 lakh candidates in the fray for over 2.23 lakh posts in 20 districts. Voting will be held from 7 am to 6 pm with over 3.23 crore voters eligible to exercise their franchise. The second phase assumes significance as state capital Lucknow and Varanasi will go to polls in this round.
Apart from Lucknow and Varanasi, polling will be held in Amroha, Azamgarh, Etawah, Etah, Kannauj, Gonda, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Chitrakoot, Pratapgarh, Budaun, Baghpat, Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar, Mainpuri, Maharajganj, Lakhimpur Kheri, Lalitpur and Sultanpur districts.
For the 787 posts of members of zila panchayats, there are 11,483 candidates.
For the 19,653 seats of kshetra panchayats, 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.
For the gram panchayat wards, there are as many as 1,30,305 candidates for 1,87,781 posts.
The candidates will contest on "free symbols" given by the Election Commission (EC).
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 the polling booths. Instructions have also been issued to make circles maintaining a distance of six feet between the voters standing in the queue.
Verma said the COVID-19 norms would also be followed during the counting of votes and personal protective equipment (PPE) kits would be arranged according to the requirements.
The Allahabad High Court had asked the Uttar Pradesh government to conclude the panchayat election process by May 25.
(With PTI inputs)