Published: 16:31, March 3, 2022 | Updated: 18:09, March 3, 2022
Voting underway in India's most populous state
By Xinhua

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath arrives to cast his vote during the sixth phase of state legislative assembly elections in Gorakhpur, India, March 3, 2022. (RAJESH KUMAR SINGH / AP)

NEW DELHI - Voting for the sixth phase of local elections is underway in India's populous state of Uttar Pradesh, officials said Thursday.

The voting which began in the morning in all poll-bound districts will continue until 6:00 pm local time.

According to the Election Commission of India, an average voter turnout of 21.79 percent had been registered until 11:00 am local time.

"The polling is progressing smoothly," an ECI official said. "In today's phase, the 57 Assembly constituencies spread over 10 districts are voting."

The state-run broadcaster All India Radio said 676 candidates, including 66 women, are in the fray in the sixth phase

The state-run broadcaster All India Radio said 676 candidates, including 66 women, are in the fray in the sixth phase.

"All eyes are centered on Gorakhpur city where Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is contesting assembly election for the first time. Some of the ministers of the Adityanath government are also contesting elections in this phase," the broadcaster said.

ECI said the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail is being used along with Electronic Voting Machine at every polling station.

Authorities have made all the necessary facilities and security arrangements to ensure free and fair polling in the poll-bound states.

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Officials say in view of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic and new cases of Omicron variant across the country, ECI has laid focus on COVID-safe elections.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday called on the voters in the poll-bound districts to vote in large numbers.

"The festival of democracy in Uttar Pradesh has entered its sixth phase today. It is my humble request to all the voters that they must participate in this festival with their votes," Modi wrote on social media.

The elections in the state were planned to be completed in staggered seven phases.

According to ECI, the final phase of polling on the remaining 54 seats in Uttar Pradesh will be held on March 7.

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In the ongoing election, there is tough competition between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the opposition parties. While the opposition strives hard to unseat BJP, the ruling party is fighting back to retain the state.

The counting of votes will take place on March 10.