Srinagar: Around 74 per cent votes were polled in 47 blocks in the first of the nine phase panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir amid unprecedented security arrangements following a general strike called by separatists and apprehension of militant attempt to disrupt the process.
The highest voter turnout of 71.9 per cent was recorded in Kupwara while the lowest 11.9 per cent votes were polled in Ganderbal in the valley.
Meanwhile, in Jammu region, Udhampur recorded the highest polling at 83.6 per cent while the lowest turnout of 74.1 per cent was recorded in Kishtwar.
J&K Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shaleen Kabra one block of Srinagar recorded 21.8 per cent votes during the first phase. “One each block of Ganderbal and Budgam recorded 11.9 per cent and 30.1 per cent votes after the polling for the first phase concluded,” he said.
He said around 69.1 per cent votes were polled in five blocks in Baramulla. “Three blocks of Bandipora recorded 55.7 per cent voter turnout,” he added.
Kabra said 70.9 per cent people exercised their franchise in Kargil in the first phase of panchayat polls while Leh recorded 59.7 per cent voter turnout.
“74.1 per cent votes were polled in Kishtwar, 80.8 per cent in Doda, 78.2 per cent Ramban, 83.6 per cent in Udhampur, 80 per cent Kathua, 78.9 per cent in Rajouri and 78.7 per cent in Poonch,” he added.
Thousands of security forces and state police personnel, wearing bullet proof jackets and headgear, were deployed to provide safe and secure environment to voters to cast their votes.
The areas which went to polls in the valley in the first phase included Keran, Ramhal, Tarathpora, Teetwal and Tangdar in Kupwara; Gurez, Baktoor and Tulail in Bandipora; Kunzer, Uri, Parenpillan, Noorkah and Kandi-Belt Rafiabad in Baramulla; Gund in Ganderbal; Khanmoh in Srinagar and Khansahib in Budgam district.
However, two regional mainstream political parties, National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) besides Communist Party of India (M) have stayed away from the polls on the issue of Article 35 A as they wanted centre and state to clear their stand on the issue.
The Congress initially announced not to contest the polls but later took a U-turn and decided to field candidates. However, Governor Satya Pal Malik questioned NC and PDP boycott and said when both the parties took part in Kargil Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Kargil the issue of Article 35 A was there.
Mr Kabra said for phase one of the panchayat polls on Saturday, 427 candidates were in the fray for 536 sarpanch halaqas and 5951 candidates for 4048 panch wards in J&K.
Mr Kabra said polls was held at 3296 polling stations across J&K, including 1303 in Kashmir and 1993 in Jammu division, on Saturday. “The poll timing was 0800 hrs to 1400 hrs,” he said.
The CEO said 5,585 candidates were in the fray for 420 sarpanch and 1845 panch seats in phase one. “85 sarpanchs and 1,676 panchs have already been elected unopposed in phase one,” he added.
He said 687 polling stations were categorised as hypersensitive, including 491 in Kashmir and 196 in Jammu division.