J&K: Amid boycott, militant threats, polls underway

J&K: Amid boycott, militant threats, polls underway

People queue up to vote in ULB polls in Gorakh Nagar, Jammu. (ANI photo)

Amid boycott calls, militant threats and heightened security, voting got underway for the first phase of municipal polls in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday. The polling for seven urban local bodies in Kashmir, 15 in Jammu and two in Ladakh, began at 7 AM and will culminate at 4 PM later today. Poll officials said till 11 am 5% polling was recorded in Anantnag, 3% in Budgam, 2% in Bandipora, 3% in Baramulla, 18% in Kupwara and 3.50% in Srinagar. In Leh town of Ladakh region, 26% polling was recorded till 11 am while neighbouring Kargil witnessed 33%. In Jammu 34% of voters had exercised their franchise till 11 am, they said.

Authorities have made unprecedented security arrangements to ensure free, fair and peaceful polling across the state. The contesting candidates have been provided with either cluster security in hotels or individually in the Valley. In the valley, the first phase of civic polls began 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.  Reports said a Bharatiya Jananta Party (BJP) candidate was injured after being hit by a stone on his head in Dachigam area of north Kashmir's Bandipora district. 


However, reports said, enthusiastic voters, lined up outside the polling stations in Gandhi Nagar, R.S.Pura, Arnia, Jurian, Khour, Akhnoor, Bishnah, Nowshera, Surankote, Kalakote, and at many other places in Jammu region from early morning. Reports from Leh and Kargil towns of Ladakh region said despite cold, voters in huge numbers turned up at the polling booths.

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 ongoing municipal polls. 

J&K Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shaleen Kabra said that 1204 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 586064.

“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 1283 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.