Low voter turnout in Kashmir, brisk in Ladakh, Jammu in Ist phase of ULB polls
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Srinagar: A low voter turnout was recorded as majority of the electorates stayed away in the first of the four phase Municipal elections held on Monday in the 57 wards of Kashmir valley amidst unprecedented security arrangements following general strike called by separatists and apprehension of militant attempt to disrupt the process.
However, brisk voting was recorded in Jammu region and Ladakh region.
Bandipora recorded the lowest voter turnout of 3.4 per cent while the highest 32.3 per cent electorates exercised their franchise in Kupwara.
The first phase of ULB elections remained violence free with minor stone pelting at some places in the valley, where the poll percentage in four out of six districts didn’t reach two digits. Though electorates remained β€˜clueless’ about the election process, with most of them complaining about not knowing when to vote or about their candidates even as 78 candidates have been elected unopposed in the first phase.
The NC and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) besides CPI (M) have stayed away from the polls on the issue of Article 35 A as the political parties wanted centre and state to clear their stand on the issue.
The Chief Electoral Officer, J&K, said that in 15 wards of north Kashmir district of Baramulla 5.1 per cent of voters exercised their franchise while in three wards of Srinagar 6.2 per cent voter turnout was recorded till 1600 hrs.
He said 7.3 per cent votes were polled in four wards of south Kashmir district of Anantnag while 17 per cent electorate turned out to cast their votes in one ward of central Kashmir district of Budgam till 1600 hrs.
He said 13 wards in the border town of Kargil recorded brisk polling as 78.2 per cent voters exercised their franchise while 13 wards in Leh recorded a voter turnout of 55.2 per cent till 1600 hrs.
β€œ63.8 per cent polling has been recorded till 1600 hrs in 153 wards in Jammu, he said, adding 73.1 per cent was recorded in 26 wards of Poonch.
He said Rajouri recorded the highest voter turnout in the state at 81 per cent.
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.
Interestingly there was absolutely no campaigning by candidates who remained confined to secure zones after the killing of two workers of National Conference (NC) in broad day light in the old city at Karfali Mohalla Habba Kadal. The names of candidates were also kept secret for security reasons.
Out of 74 wards of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), polling in the first phase was held in three wards of Humhama, Bagh-e-Mehtab and Hamdaniya Colony Bemina, where eight candidates are in the fray. The authorities had set up 35 polling stations for the voters. Not a single candidate had filed nomination in one ward of the SMC. There are 310 candidates contesting from 73 of SMC.
Besides boycott by NC and PDP, 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. These parties are misleading people and trying to take political mileage in Assembly elections.
β€œIn Kashmir Division 138 polling stations have been categorized as hypersensitive while in Jammu Division 52 polling stations have been categorised hypersensitive,” he said and added that for the Phase-I, 78 candidates have already been elected unopposed.
Meanwhile, the election boycott by NC and PDP over Article 35A — and separatists boycott call has become a blessing in disguise for the BJP, which has won at least 60 wards unopposed in the upcoming ULB polls in the valley, where it failed to make an inroad in Assembly polls.
Congress has managed to bag only 26 wards while many independent candidates have also won unopposed in many parts of the valley in the ULB polls.
Due to threat perception the authorities have refused to divulge any details about the candidates who won unopposed or are still in the fray. There is no campaigning by the candidates as they don’t want to get exposed, fearing action by militants.
No candidates has filed nominations in about 150 wards of the 624 wards in the valley, where additional 400 companies of Central Forces will be deputed to provide security for the ULB and panchayat polls in view of boycott called by separatists and militants.
Appealing to people to take part in ULB and Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Governor Satya Pal Malik on Sunday said these polls are not for New Delhi but to empower people at grass-root level to address local issues with the help of funds received from state and central governments.
β€œYou are being mislead by all those parties who have given a boycott call on the pretext of Article 35 A issue which was there when they (parties) participated in Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Kargil elections,” Mr Malik said in an interview to local Doordarshan.
Mr Malik said the NC and PDP are claiming that they are boycotting the election on the issue of Article 35 A which is not a fact. β€œThey (NC-PDP) are trying to clear the ground for Assembly election when they can claim that they have made sacrifice on the issue of Article 35 A by not contesting the UBL and Panchayat polls. The issue of Article 35 A was there when both the parties contested LAHDC Kargil election,” he said.
The Governor said the ULB and Panchayat polls are being held to empower the locals so that problems being faced by the people at grass-root level are addressed by their local elected representatives. β€œThese elections have nothing to do with central government or BJP or me (Governor),” he said.
β€œEvery panchayat or ULB will get at least Rs one crore finance from the centre and state government to address local drainage and other smaller problems,” he said, adding the state may lose Rs 4335 crore if election are not held.
β€œAt present people have to meet officers to address their local problem,” he said adding when the elections are held people will have to approach their own local representative to get the work done.
To another question, Mr Malik said he has done an analysis that only 17 per cent voters would not be exercising their democratic right because of the absence of candidates in some municipal wards.
Considering the pattern of attempts to disturb law and order in the past few days, Mr Malik stressed the need of a heightened vigil and ensuring the safety of protected persons and the security of all important establishments and installations.
Meanwhile, the election boycott by NC and PDP over Article 35A — and separatists boycott call has become a blessing in disguise for the BJP, which has won at least 60 wards unopposed in the upcoming ULB polls in the valley, where it failed to make an inroad in Assembly polls.
Congress has managed to bag only 26 wards while many independent candidates have also won unopposed in many parts of the valley in the ULB polls.
Due to threat perception the authorities have refused to divulge any details about the candidates who won unopposed or are still in the fray. There is no campaigning by the candidates as they don’t want to get exposed, fearing action by militants.
No candidates has filed nominations in about 150 wards of the 624 wards in the valley, where additional 400 companies of Central Forces will be deputed to provide security for the ULB and panchayat polls in view of boycott called by separatists and militants.
Appealing to people to take part in ULB and Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Governor Satya Pal Malik on Sunday said these polls are not for New Delhi but to empower people at grass-root level to address local issues with the help of funds received from state and central governments.
β€œYou are being mislead by all those parties who have given a boycott call on the pretext of Article 35 A issue which was there when they (parties) participated in Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Kargil elections,” Mr Malik said in an interview to local Doordarshan.
Mr Malik said the NC and PDP are claiming that they are boycotting the election on the issue of Article 35 A which is not a fact. β€œThey (NC-PDP) are trying to clear the ground for Assembly election when they can claim that they have made sacrifice on the issue of Article 35 A by not contesting the UBL and Panchayat polls. The issue of Article 35 A was there when both the parties contested LAHDC Kargil election,” he said.
The Governor said the ULB and Panchayat polls are being held to empower the locals so that problems being faced by the people at grass-root level are addressed by their local elected representatives. β€œThese elections have nothing to do with central government or BJP or me (Governor),” he said.
β€œEvery panchayat or ULB will get at least Rs one crore finance from the centre and state government to address local drainage and other smaller problems,” he said, adding the state may lose Rs 4335 crore if election are not held.
β€œAt present people have to meet officers to address their local problem,” he said adding when the elections are held people will have to approach their own local representative to get the work done.
To another question, Mr Malik said he has done an analysis that only 17 per cent voters would not be exercising their democratic right because of the absence of candidates in some municipal wards.
Considering the pattern of attempts to disturb law and order in the past few days, Mr Malik stressed the need of a heightened vigil and ensuring the safety of protected persons and the security of all important establishments and installations.

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SOURCE: UNI

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