Over 55.75 lakh voters will exercise their franchise to elect 2,639 sarpanches and 19,553 village ward members in the third phase of elections to the gram panchayats in Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday. Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Principal Secretary Gopal Krishna Dwivedi on eve of the polls announced that the state government has set up 26,851 polling stations under 160 revenue mandals in 13 districts.
Of the total, 1,977 polling stations were in the Maoist- affected areas, while 3,127 have been classified as hypersensitive and 4,118 sensitive polling stations. While polling would be held from 6.30 am to 3.30 pm in all polling stations, the process has been curtailed by two hours in Maoist-affected areas. Of the 3,221 village sarpanch posts in the third phase, 579 had gone unopposed. Similarly, 11,753 of 31,516 ward members were also elected unanimously, the Principal Secretary said.
In one gram panchayat each in Visakhapatnam, Prakasam and West Godavari districts, no nominations were filed for the sarpanch posts and, as such, polling would be held for 2,639 posts only. A total of 7,757 candidates are in the fray for these sarpanch posts. Also, no nominations were filed for 210 ward members posts out of the total of 19,763. As such, elections would be held only for 19,553 wards, Dwivedi said.
"All arrangements have been put in place for the third phase of the election. We have kept Personal Protective Equipment, sanitisers, masks, gloves and thermal scanners at all polling stations in line with the COVID-19 protocol," Dwivedi added.
Special arrangements have been made for coronavirus-afflicted voters, if any, to exercise their franchise during the last hour of polling. Counting of votes would be taken up after 4 pm, following the voting.
The first and second phase of elections to gram panchayats were conducted on February 9 and 13 in, by and large, a peaceful manner.
Though the elections to panchayats were conducted on an apolitical basis, the ruling YSRCP claimed to have bagged "more than 82%" of village bodies, the lowest tier of the Panchayat Raj structure. The final phase of polls will be held on February 21.