LUCKNOW: The first phase of polling for panchayat elections passed off peacefully on Thursday with an average turnout of 71%. Though the voting percentage was comparatively moderate for rural elections, it was reasonably significant in the backdrop of a mammoth pandemic surge. There were reports of a stray incident of firing and subsequent chaos in Agra, which clocked a turnout of 71.61%.
Polling was conducted in 18 districts comprising 14,789 gram panchayats, 779 zila panchayat wards, 19,313 kshetra panchayat wards and 1,86,583 gram panchayat wards. The districts which went to polls in the first phase included Ayodhya, Agra, Kanpur, Prayagraj, Gorakhpur, Ghaziabad, Jhansi, Bareilly and Rampur.
According to state election commission, Jhansi recorded the maximum turnout of 80%. The district had 9,73,522 voters, who exercised their franchise in 1,676 polling booths.
Jhansi was followed by Kanpur and Prayagraj which recorded 75% polling. Kanpur district has 590 gram panchayats and 32 zila panchayat wards, while Prayagraj has 1,540 gram panchayat and 84 zila panchayat wards.Saharanpur and Ghaziabad too, registered 74.53%% and 74.33% polling respectively, while 73.30% voters turned out in in Bareilly to exercise their franchise.Gorakhpur, home turf of chief minister Yogi Adityanath, recorded 70% polling. With a voter strength of 2,978,569, the district comprises 1,294 gram panchayats and 1,700 kshetra panchayat wards. At least 4,600 polling booths were set up here.
The Congress stronghold of Rae Bareli clocked 68%% polling. With an electoral strength of 21,18,144, the district comprises 988 gram panchayats and 52 zila panchayat wards.
The religious nerve-centre of Ayodhya registered 70% polling. The district with 16,72,701 voters went to polls to elect representatives in 794 gram panchayats, 40 zila panchayat wards and 1,004 kshetra panchayat wards.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath expressed satisfaction over peaceful polling in the first phase of elections and said the enthusiasm shown by voters despite the pandemic has strengthened democracy.
The first phase of panchayat elections set the tone for political parties to assess the grassroots pulse ahead of the high-stakes assembly elections next year. BJP has been taking the panchayat elections seriously to consolidate its position amid an aggressive outreach by the Opposition, mainly SP and BSP.
State election commission officials said polls were carried out by adhering to Corona protocols, including wearing masks and use of thermal scanners and sanitizers.