80% voting in eighth phase of J&K panchayat polls

80% voting in eighth phase of J&K panchayat polls

At least 361 polling stations have been categorised as hypersensitive -- 171 in Kashmir and 190 in Jammu. (File Photo by Umer Asif)

Voting for the eighth phase of the Jammu and Kashmir panchayat polls ended on Saturday with nearly 80% electorate exercising their right to franchise.

According to figures released by J&K chief electoral officer, total turnout in the state was recorded at 79.7% with 49.6 % turnout in Kashmir and 85.1% in Jammu division.

The polling began at 8 am at 2,633 polling stations — 550 in Kashmir and 2,083 in Jammu — and ended at 2 pm. At least 361 polling stations were categorised as hypersensitive — 171 in Kashmir and 190 in Jammu.

Due to militant threats, boycott calls by separatists and decision of regional parties, the PDP and the National Conference (NC) stayed away from the recently-concluded urban local bodies (ULB) polls, only 4.27% polling was witnessed in the Kashmir region, which was the lowest in any election held in the state since 1951.

However, the brisk voting in the eight phases of the nine-phase exercise was the reminder of 2011 polls when 82% of voters exercised their right to franchise. The polling for the last phase of the elections will be held on December 11. At least 4,400 sarpanchs (head of a village) and 29,000 panchs will be elected in Jammu and Kashmir.

While separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik have urged people to boycott these polls, militants have threatened to blind panchayat poll candidates with acid.

Authorities had made elaborate arrangements for holding violence-free polls with 200 companies of paramilitary forces, which were deployed for recently-held urban local body elections, re-deployed for the panchayat polls.