Counting of votes for the three-tier panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh went on at a snail’s pace on Sunday and even after strict warning by the Supreme Court, people thronged the counting centres in rampant violation of the Covid protocols. Police had to resort to mild lath-charge at several counting centres to disperse the mob which had gathered and tried to storm the centres. The cane-charge was reported from Muzaffarnagar, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Pilibhit and several other places.
In Pilibhit, the police had to intervene following a clash between the candidates and counting personnel at the Puranpur Mandi Samiti counting centre. There were violations of Covid norms everywhere as counting agents and candidates were witnessed rushing to the counting centre gates while supporters assembled in large numbers outside.
State Election Commission (SEC) officials in Lucknow said on Sunday that the counting process was underway but due to Covid norms, the announcement of results would be delayed and the process might take close to 48 hours to complete. The SEC official, however, added that over 3.19 lakh candidates were elected unopposed.
“As many as 3,19,317 candidates have been elected unopposed in the elections. This includes seven members of zila panchayat, 2,005 members of kshetra panchayat and over 3.17 lakh members of village panchayat who were elected unopposed. As many as 178 candidates for the post of pradhans of gram panchayats were also elected unopposed,” the SEC said in a statement.
The SEC official said, “The counting of votes which started on Sunday morning will continue till all the ballots are counted. The entire process may take two days. Candidates and their agents will be allowed to enter the counting centres only if they have tested negative for COVID-19 48 hours prior to the commencement of the counting process or taken both vaccine doses.”
The Supreme Court had on Saturday refused to stay the counting of votes for the recently-held panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh. In a special hearing on a holiday (Saturday), a bench of justices AM Khanwilkar and Hrishikesh Roy passed the order after taking note of several notifications and assurances of the SEC that COVID-19 protocols would be followed at all 829 counting centres across the state. The court directed that there would be a strict curfew in the entire state till Tuesday morning and no victory rallies would be permitted.
The apex court had also asked the SEC to fix the responsibility for observance of COVID-19 protocols at the counting centres on gazetted officers. The bench directed the poll panel to preserve CCTV footage of counting centres till the Allahabad High Court concluded its hearings on the related petitions before it. It also ordered that the government officials, candidates and their agents would have to produce RT-PCR test reports to show that they were COVID-19 negative before entering the counting centres.
Voting for the panchayat polls in the state ended on April 29 with a 75 per cent voter turnout in the fourth and final phase. Lakhs of candidates were in the fray for over 7.32 lakh seats in the gram panchayat wards, 58,176 village pradhan, 75,852 in kshetra panchayats and 3,050 in zila panchayats.