Lucknow, April 15: The polling for the first phase of the Uttar Pradesh Panchayat Elections 2021 began at 7 pm on Thursday. The UP Panchayat elections are taking place in four phases. These polls are seen as a semi-final to the 2022 Assembly elections. In the first phase, the voting is being held in 18 districts with ballot papers.

There are more than 3.33 lakh candidates 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 districts that will go to the polls are Ayodhya, Agra, Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Gorakhpur, Jaunpur, Jhansi, Allahabad, Bareilly, Bhadohi, Mahoba, Rampur, Raebareli, Shravasti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Saharanpur, Hardoi and Hathras. Uttar Pradesh Panchayat Elections 2021: 2 Quintal Jalebi, 1,050 Samosas for Distribution Among Voters Seized in Unnao.

For the post of Zila Panchayat members, 11,442 candidates are in the fray from 779 wards, while as many as 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. Uttar Pradesh Panchayat Election Candidate Shot by Unidentified Assailants in Baghpat.

Prominent parties which are in the contest are the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the AIMIM. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad's Azad Samaj Party are also in the fray. However, the candidates are contesting on ''free symbols'' given by the Election Commission.

Due to the prevailing COVID-19 situation, not more than five people would be allowed to accompany a candidate during door-to-door campaigning for the panchayat elections. The EC is conducting these elections following COVID-19 protocols. The Allahabad High Court had asked the state government to complete the panchayat-election process by May 25.

(With inputs from PTI)

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Apr 15, 2021 09:01 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website