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Peaceful start to local polls in Maharashtra

Nearly one-fourth of Maharashtra's population, mostly in rural and semi-rural areas, will elect new representatives for 27 Zilla Parishads and 305 Panchayat Samitis, polling for which began Tuesday morning amidst tight security, an official said.

Voting began on a peaceful note at 7.30 a.m. though crowds were not evident at many booths in view of the severe cold wave conditions sweeping most parts of the state.

Polling will continue till 5.30 p.m. in all areas, barring Gadchiroli, where it will close at 3.30 p.m.

Nearly 3.89 crore voters shall elect their new representatives for 1,624 Zilla Parishad seats and 3,218 Panchayat Samiti seats, for which 7,116 and 13,473 candidates are in the fray respectively, said State Election Commissioner Neela Satyanarayan.

The State Election Commission has set up 59,914 polling stations with 1.38 lakh electronic voting machines.

Of the total, around 7,500 polling stations are considered sensitive, including those in Maoist-infested Gadchiroli district of eastern Maharashtra, for which special security arrangements are in place.

Only Gadchiroli will have a two-phased election. While areas like Korchi, Kurkheda, Desaiganj, Aarmori, Gadchiroli, Dhanora, Charmoshi and Mulchera shall vote Tuesday, other areas like Aheri, Etapalli, Bhamragad and Sironcha shall go to polls Feb 12.

The elections to 10 top municipal corporations -- Mumbai, Thane, Ulhasnagar, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nashik, Solapur, Akola, Amravati and Nagpur -- are scheduled for Feb 16.

The election commission has directed the state government to declare holidays Feb 7 and Feb 16 for polling.

Counting of votes shall be taken up simultaneously Feb 17 onwards.

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