AMIDST boycott by two major state parties and threat by terrorists ,voting for the first phase of Urban Local Body elections in Jammu & Kashmir ended peacefully as scheduled on Monday. In the first civic polls being held in 13 years, 2,990 candidates are in the fray for the four-phase election which will end on October 16. Elections are being held in 422 of the state’s 1,145 municipal wards. Counting of votes will take place on October 20. In the first phase, polling was held for 422 wards across all the three regions- Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Turnout of voters in Jammu and Ladakh regions are much higher compared to militancy affected Kashmir valley. In Jammu Division, polling was held in 238 wards which include 153 wards in Jammu district followed by 59 in Rajouri district and 26 wards in Poonch district. In Jammu district, around 64 per cent polling was recorded in 153 wards whereas 81 per cent polling was recorded from 59 wards of border district of Rajouri. However, in 26 wards of border district of Poonch, 74 per cent electors had cast their votes. No untoward incident was reported from any part of the Jammu division till filing the reportage.
Chief Electoral Officer informed media that 32.3 per cent voter turnout is recorded in Kupwara district of Kashmir division while Kargil recorded 78.2 per cent till 4 PM. Leh recorded 55.2 per cent voter turnout till 4 PM. Two main regional parties, the National Conference (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti-led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) boycotted the election .Unprecedented security arrangements were put in place by the state authorities and the election commission to ensure peaceful polls. Also, all candidates have been provided either cluster security in hotels or individually in the Valley. Brisk voting was seen in almost all the wards in Jammu region with Rajouri registering the highest votes on Monday while Srinagar in the valley saw the lowest as a shutdown-call led to subdued polling in the municipal elections amidst heaby security cover. Long queues of enthusiastic voters were seen in almost all the Municipal Corporation and municipal committee wards in Jammu district where 34 per cent polling was recorded in five hours, as Rajouri registered 55 per cent and Poonch 47.Voting continued peacefully in Gandhi Nagar, R.S. Pura, Bishnah, Arnia, Khour, Jurian, Akhnoor, Nowshera, Surankote and Kalakote areas and many other wards.There was poor turnout in the Kashmir Valley in the first phase of the civic polls that took place amid boycott calls by the two key parties in the state — the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party. Till 12 p.m., it was just 18 per cent in Kupwara, 2 per cent in Bandipora, 3 in Badgam and Baramullah, while 5 per cent in Anantnag. Srinagar registered the lowest count of 3.5 per cent in five hours since polling began at 7 a.m.An official said 4,000 votes out of 80,000 had been polled in the Kashmir Valley till 11 a.m.In the three Srinagar municipal corporation wards of Humhama, Bagh-e-Mehtab and Hamdania colony, 1,001 votes were polled till 11.30 a.m.In the Ladakh region where biting cold had kept early voters away, saw the process pick up and Kargil district registered 3,470 votes while Leh had 3,164 votes till 11.30 a.m.A presiding officer was suspended at the Aloosa polling station in Bandipora district for allowing a woman accompany a voter to the voting counter.Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh said no restrictions have been imposed anywhere in the valley although security has been tightened to provide a free and fair environment.No militancy related incident has been reported from anywhere in the valley so far. Polling ended at 1 hrs IST (image courtesy to The Indian Express).