Candidates maintain low profile for Kashmir ULB polls

Candidates maintain low profile for Kashmir ULB polls

A security person stands guard during restrictions and strike call given by separatist leaders against, in Srinagar. (PTI File Photo)

As intelligence agencies had warned of violence during the upcoming urban local bodies (ULB) and panchayat polls in Kashmir, candidates who filed nominations have so far kept a low profile.

No candidate in any part of the Valley has interacted with the media or with poll authorities and also refusing to divulge their names and credentials. Efforts to trace the contesting candidates and speak to them proved futile.

Even the poll officials are not to ready to speak about them. A senior official in south Kashmir’s volatile Shopian district acknowledged that they had not made public the name of any candidate contesting the polls.

“The prevailing situation in Kashmir is such that you can’t identify the candidates as it can be dangerous for them,” the official said when asked whether the names were being kept under cover for security reasons.

A senior Congress leader in Srinagar said that their poll activities are limited to the party headquarter only. “No candidate is ready for campaigning and leadership is also aware of this. We have gone against the popular sentiment of boycotting and it is better to keep a low profile than become target of militants and mobs,” he revealed.

With nominations for all four phases of ULB polls ending on Monday, startling figures have come to the fore from the Valley, where 215 wards out of a total of 624 have gone uncontested while 177 wards didn’t find a single candidate. The election will be held on 232 wards only in Kashmir for which 715 candidates, an estimated three candidates per ward, are in the fray.

The ULB elections will be conducted in four phases and polling will be held between October 8 and 16 while Panchayat elections will be conducted in nine phases from November 17 to December 11.

The municipal polls are being conducted in the state after a gap of 13 years with the last elections being held in 2005 and the last panchayat polls in 2011.

While separatists have appealed to the people to boycott the polls, regional mainstream parties, the National Conference and the People's Democratic Party, have decided to stay away from the poll process. The militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen has issued a strong warning to those participating in the polls, asking them to get shrouds along with the elections forms.

“We have got drums of Sulphuric and Hydrochloric acid, and we will blind anyone who participates in the elections. They should know how our pellet-blinded children feel,” Hizbul commander Riyaz Naikoo had said in an audio message in August.

A senior police officer said despite the Centre sending 400 additional companies of armed forces for the poll duties, it is not possible to provide security to each and every candidate because of the sheer number.