Voting for the first of the four-phase Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections, seen as a semi-final to the 2022 assembly election, began on Thursday morning on a peaceful note in 18 districts with ballot papers.
More than 3.33 lakh candidates are in the fray in over 2.21 lakh seats in the first phase for the posts of zila panchayat (district council) members, kshetra (block) panchayat members, village panchayat heads and wards.
"The polling is going on smoothly and no problem is reported from anywhere in the state. The polling, which started at 7 am, will continue till 8 pm," a senior State Election Commission official said.
In Jhansi, Nirmala Sahu, a woman polling officer posted at Jauri Bujurg, a polling centre in Badagaon block died after she felt uneasiness, Assistant Superintendent of Police, City, Vivek Tripathi said.
The woman felt uneasiness and before she could be rushed to hospital she died, the ASP said, adding that the exact cause of her death could be ascertained after post-mortem.
The districts where polling is going on included Ayodhya, Agra, Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Gorakhpur, Jaunpur, Jhansi, Allahabad, Bareilly, Bhadohi, Mahoba, Rampur, Raebareli, Shravasti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Saharanpur, Hardoi and Hathras.
For the post of zila panchayat members, 11,442 candidates are in the fray from 779 wards, while 81,747 candidates are contesting in 19,313 wards of kshetra panchayats.
For the gram panchayat, there are 1,14,142 candidates for 14,789 posts. For gram panchayat wards, there are 1,26,613 candidates for 1,86,583 seats.
Apart from parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party and the Congress, among those in the race are the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, Aam Aadmi Party and Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad's Azad Samaj Party, which are making their debut in the state. The AIMIM will contest polls with the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party.
The candidates will, however, contest on 'free symbols' given by the Election Commission.
In view of the coronavirus situation, the State Election Commission had said in March that not more than five people would be allowed to accompany a candidate during door-to-door campaigning for the panchayat elections.
The voting for the second phase will be on April 19, the third on April 26 and the fourth phase on April 29, while the votes will be counted on May 2 along with the assembly election results of five states.