In the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, all the necessary preparations have been made for the First of the Seven-Phase polling of Assembly Elections tomorrow. The polling will be conducted from 7.00 A.M. to 6.00 P.M.

In the initial phase, 58 Assembly Constituencies including nine reserved for the Scheduled Castes will go to polls tomorrow. These constituencies are from eleven districts of Shamli (Prabuddh Nagar), Meerut, Hapur (Panchsheel Nagar), Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Ghaziabad, Bulandshahar, Aligarh, Agra, Gautam Buddha Nagar, and Mathura. Total 2.28 crore electors will be eligible to exercise their franchise during the First Phase. They include 1.24 crore male, 1.04 crore female, and 1,448 third gender voters. In all, 26,027 Polling Stations have been set up in this phase for their convenience.  

During the First Phase of Assembly Elections, there are 623 candidates including 73 women in fray for 58 seats indicating mostly multi-cornered contests. Maximum 15 candidates each are vying for Mathura and Muzaffar Nagar seats while minimum five candidates are in the fray for Iglas seat.  

During 2017 Assembly Elections, Bharatiya Janata Party bagged 53 out of these 58 seats while Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party got two seats each and the remaining one went to Rashtriya Lok Dal.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has formed an alliance with Anupriya Patel’s Apna Dal (Sonelal) and NISHAD Party led by Sanjay Nishad. The Samajwadi Party has entered into an alliance with the Rashtriya Lok Dal, Shivpal Yadav’s Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia), Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party-led by Om Prakash Rajbhar, Janvadi Party (Socialist), and Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) led by Krishna Patel and Mahan Dal. All India Trinamool Congress has announced support to the SP but decided not to field its candidates in the polls.

Meanwhile, the Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party have announced to go in for the upcoming polls without any alliance. Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen has formed an alliance with Babu Singh Kushwaha’s Jan Adhikar Party and Bharat Mukti Morcha. Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad’s Azad Samaj Party has also floated an alliance with over 30 regional parties. The alliance is named Samajik Parivartan Morcha. The Janta Dal (United) is contesting the polls independently in the state.      

The prominent BJP candidates participating in this phase include former Uttarakhand Governor Baby Rani Maurya, nine Ministers including Suresh Rana, Shrikant Sharma and Choudhari Lakshmi Narain, State General Secretary Pankaj Singh along with Sangeet Som, Satyaveer Tyagi and Mriganka Singh. Samajwadi Party has fielded former Minister Shahid Manzoor along with Nahid Hasan, Sanjay Lathar, and Sunil Chaudhari while the BSP has fielded Madan Chauhan and Kripa Ram Sharma during this phase. Avtar Singh Bhadana, Rajpal, Gajraaj Singh, Tej Pal Singh, and Manisha Ahlawat are some prominent candidates from Rashtriya Lok Dal while Upendra Singh and Pankhuri Pathak from Congress and Pankaj Awana of Aam Aadmi Party are also in the fray.

The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is being used along with Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) at every Polling Station, with a view to enhance the transparency and credibility of the election process, as VVPAT allows the voter to verify his or her vote. The arrangements have already been made to ensure availability of an adequate number of EVMs and VVPATs for the smooth conduct of elections.    

In view of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic and rising cases of Omicron variant across the country, Election Commission has laid focus on COVID-safe elections with maximum participation. It is going to ensure the safety of vote and voters as both are equally and critically important in democracy.  

 The Election Commission has decided to allow maximum 1,250 electors in a Polling Station instead of earlier stipulation of 1,500 electors. Accordingly, there is a major change in the number of Polling Stations in the poll-bound states of Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. Accordingly, the number of Polling Stations in the state has gone up to 1,74,351 and it is more than 18.49 percent as compared to the number of Polling Stations in 2017.

Option of Postal Ballot facility has been extended to the electors who are COVID-19 positive or suspect as certified by competent authority and are in-home or institutional quarantine along with those marked as Persons with Disabilities (PwD) and above the age of 80 years.

As per the Election Commission instructions, the concerned Chief Electoral Officers are ensuring that every Polling Station is equipped with Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) like drinking water, waiting shed, toilet with water facility, adequate arrangements for lighting, ramp of an appropriate gradient for the   Persons with Disabilities. The special facilities include mandatory sanitization of Polling Station, thermal checking of voters at entry point either by polling staff or paramedical staff or an Asha worker. At the last hour of poll, such electors will be facilitated for voting, strictly following COVID-19 related preventive measures.

In view of the pandemic, the Commission has decided to extend the poll timing by one hour in all Assembly Constituencies. The COVID-19 patients, who are quarantined, will be allowed to cast their vote at the last hour of the poll day at their respective Polling Stations, under the supervision of health authorities, strictly following COVID-19 related preventive measures. Proper mechanism of collection and disposal of waste or used gloves will be put in place at each Polling Station.

The Seventh Phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh will be conducted on 7th of March in 54 Assembly Constituencies from nine districts. The process of filing nominations for the Seventh and Last Phase of Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh will begin with the issuance of notification tomorrow. The state is going to polls in seven phases from 10th of February to 7th of March.

During the Seventh and Last Phase polling in Uttar Pradesh, the nominations can be filed till 17th and the scrutiny will be undertaken on 18th of February. The last date for withdrawal of candidature will be 21st  of February.

Meanwhile, the picture of the electoral battle in the Fourth Phase of Assembly Elections in Uttar Pradesh became clear with mostly multi-cornered contests on cards after withdrawal of candidature last evening.  There are total 624 candidates in fray for 59 Assembly seats.