The dates for the Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections— a virtual semi-final before the assembly polls to be held next year— have been announced. And, with this, the model code of conduct has come into force in the state. The poll panel has announced that the panchayat elections will be held in four phases. There will be voting on April 15 under the first phase. After this, votes will be cast for the second phase on April 19, the third on April 26, and the fourth phase on April 29. The counting of votes will take place on May 2, the same day the results for assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry will be declared.
The polls will be a key test of the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government’s popularity, and an opportunity for opposition parties to gauge the public mood, particularly as they come against the backdrop of persisting farmers’ protests in the country that have also gripped parts of UP.
According to the State Election Commission, the first phase of voting on April 15 will be held in 18 districts: Ghaziabad, Saharanpur, Rampur, Bareilly, Hathras, Agra, Kanpur City, Jhansi, Mahoba, Prayagraj, Raebareli, Hardoi, Ayodhya, Shravasti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Gorakhpur, Jaunpur, and Bhadohi.
Nominations will be filed for the first phase on April 3 and 4 (8 am to 5 pm). After this, the nomination papers will be reviewed on the next two days. Candidates can withdraw their nomination by April 7. On the same day, the poll panel will allot symbols to the contestants.
The nominations for the second phase will be done on April 7-8. The districts that will go into polling in the second phase on April 19 include Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Gautam Budh Nagar, Bijnor, Amroha, Badaun, Etah, Mainpuri, Kannauj, Etawah, Lalitpur, Chitrakoot, Pratapgarh, Lucknow, Lakhimpur Kheri, Sultanpur, Gonda, Maharajganj, Varanasi, and Azamgarh.
In the third phase, a total of 20 districts will vote on April 26, including Shamli, Meerut, Moradabad, Pilibhit, Kasganj, Firozabad, Auraiya, Kanpur Dehat, Jalaun, Hamirpur, Fatehpur, Unnao, Amethi, Barabanki, Balrampur, Siddharthnagar, Deoria, Chandauli, Mirzapur, and Ballia. According to the commission, nominations for the third phase will take place from April 13 to 15. After this, nomination papers will be examined on April 16 and 17. Candidates can withdraw their nomination by April 18. Symbols will also be allocated on the same day.
In the fourth and final phase, voting will be held in 17 districts on April 29: Bulandshahr, Hapur, Sambhal, Shahjahanpur, Aligarh, Mathura, Farrukhabad, Banda, Kaushambi, Sitapur, Ambedkar Nagar, Bahraich, Basti, Kushinagar, Ghazipur, Sonbhadra, and Mau. The nomination process for the fourth phase will take place on April 17 and 18, while the nominations will be reviewed in the next two days. The candidates can withdraw their nominations by April 21.
A PIL was filed before the Supreme Court recently, challenging an Allahabad High Court order that directed the State of UP to take 2015 as the base year instead of 1995 for reserving seats in the panchayat polls and hold elections by May 25. The plea had also challenged a March 17 UP government order, issued in compliance with the High Court’s instructions, because of which the Ishapur constituency in Jaunpur district of the petitioner that was earlier unreserved had now been reserved for the other backward class (OBC) category.
With the announcement of the panchayat election schedule by the Election Commission, now the government can argue in the Supreme Court that it has released the reservation list first on the basis of the guidelines of the High Court and the polls have been announced after that. In such a situation, the PIL has become insignificant.