80 percent turnout in Haryana panchayat poll’s first phase

Chandigarh: Nearly 80 percent of people exercised their franchise in the first phase of the elections to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in Haryana held on Sunday, a senior election department official said.

“The elections were conducted in a peaceful, free and fair manner, with the exception of isolated incidents. According to information received up to 8.30 pm, more than 79.5 percent voters cast their ballots in 47 blocks of the state, and the final voter turnout may go up to more than 80 per cent,” said State Election Commissioner Rajeev Sharma.

“As many as 15,682 panches, 93 sarpanches and 46 members of panchayat samitis have been elected unanimously during the first phase of fifth General Elections to the Panchayati Raj Institutions in Haryana,” he said.

The highest voter turnout was 91.7 percent in Panchkula district while Yamunanagar district recorded 90 percent polling.

Sharma said that the next phases of the three-phased panchayat elections will be held on January 17 and 24.

The Supreme Court had last month upheld the new Panchayati Raj Act amendment providing for educational qualifications and other eligibility criteria, including a functional toilet at home.

Under the new amendment passed by the Haryana assembly in September, contesting candidates require a minimum qualification of matriculation (Class 10).

Scheduled Caste and women candidates require middle pass (class 8) qualification and women candidates from Scheduled Caste category have to be at least class 5 pass.

The candidates also have to ensure that they do not have any criminal charges against them, have not defaulted on loans from cooperative banks and have paid their electricity bills.

There are a total of 6,198 gram panchayats, 126 panchayat samitis and 21 zila parishads in the state. Elections would be conducted for 416 members of 21 zila parishads, 3,001 posts of 126 panchayat samitis, and 6,198 posts and 62,492 posts of sarpanches and panches.

Over 1.10 crore voters are eligible to vote in the elections, including 5,104,621 women.