First phase of J&K civic polls ends peacefully

First phase of J&K civic polls ends peacefully

Voters wait in queues outside a polling station in Bemina area of Budgam district to cast their franchise during the first phase of urban local bodies election on Monday. DH photo / Umer Asif

Amid boycott calls, militant threats and heightened security, the polling for the first phase of municipal polls in Jammu and Kashmir culminated peacefully on Monday.

The polling for seven urban local bodies in Kashmir, 15 in Jammu and two in Ladakh began at 7 am and ended at 4 pm. In the valley, the first phase of civic polls witnessed low percentage of voting amid boycott calls by the two key regional parties in the state - the National Conference and the People's Democratic Party, citing legal challenge to Article 35-A of the Constitution in the Supreme Court.

Poll officials said, in Kashmir Valley, frontier Kupwara district in north recorded highest of 32.3% while Bandipora district witnessed lowest of 3.4%. Budgam recorded 17% voting Anantnag 7.3% voting, Baramulla 5.1 and Srinagar 6.2%. Reports said a BJP candidate was injured after being hit by a stone on his head in Dachigam area of northern Bandipora district.

However, reports said, enthusiastic voters lined up outside the polling stations in Jammu region’s Gandhi Nagar, R S Pura, Arnia, Jurian, Khour, Akhnoor, Bishnah, Nowshera, Surankote, Kalakote, and at many other places from early morning. In Jammu region, Rajouri district recorded 81% polling, the highest in the state, followed by Poonch with 73.1% and Jammu 63.8%.

In Leh town of Ladakh region, 55.2% voters exercised their franchise while neighbouring Kargil witnessed 78.2% polling.

Authorities had made unprecedented security arrangements to ensure free, fair and peaceful polling across the state. The contesting candidates have been provided either cluster security in hotels or individual security in the Valley. The Centre has made elaborate security arrangements for the elections, pushing in 400 additional companies of paramilitary forces for the poll duty.

The Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militant outfit has issued a strong warning to those participating in the polls, asking them to get shrouds along with the election forms. Authorities snapped mobile Internet service in south Kashmir while the speed was reduced to 2G in rest of the Valley in view of the ongoing municipal polls.

While the candidates in Jammu and Ladakh regions campaigned extensively, the campaigning remained a low-key affair in the Valley amid threats from militants, boycott calls by separatists and NC and PDP’s decision to abstain from the polls.

J&K Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shaleen Kabra said that 1,204 candidates are in the fray for 321 municipal wards (in Phase-I), including 83 in Kashmir division and 238 in Jammu division. The total electorate for phase-I is 58,6064.

“In Kashmir division, 138 polling stations have been categorised as hypersensitive while in Jammu division 52 polling stations have been categorised as hypersensitive,” he said and added that for the phase-I, 78 candidates have already been elected unopposed.

A total of 1,283 candidates are contesting in the 422 municipal wards today. The ULB polls are taking place after a gap of 13 years. The last such exercise was conducted in 2005 during the PDP-Congress government in Jammu and Kashmir. The second phase of polls is scheduled to be held on October 10, while the third phase of voting will be held on October 13 and the last on October 16.