Altogether 1,012 contestants are in the fray for 402 wards of Zila Parishad, and 5,799 candidates are vying for 2260 Panchayat Samiti seats, a spokesman of State Election Commission (RSEC) said here.

Voting began at 8 AM at 13,115 polling booths amid high security. It will conclude at 5 PM. Due to fog and icy winds the, voter turn out was less in the early hours, the spokesman said.

In the first phase, 10 candidates were elected unopposed on Zila Parishad seats and 45 candidates were elected unopposed on Panchayat Samiti seats after the process of withdrawal of nominations, the spokesman said.

The elections are being held amid a controversy over an ordinance issued by the state government fixing educational qualifications for the candidates.

Petitions have been filed in the Rajasthan High Court challenging the ordinance on the grounds that it would take away the rights of the people, particularly of women as in many segments a majority of them have no formal education.

They had also sought a stay but the high court yesterday refused to interfere, saying the election process was already on and asked the petitioners to wait for the final order.

The second phase of polls would be held on January 22 and third phase on February 1. Counting of votes will be held on February 5.

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