For the first time in 13 years, voting began in 11 districts in the first of the four phases of urban local bodies elections in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday.
The voting is being conducted under tight security cover, even as many voters complained that they were “clueless” about the candidates or the voting schedule.
Mobile Internet services have been suspended in South Kashmir in the view of the civic polls. Mobile Internet speed has been reduced to 2G in other parts of the Kashmir valley.
Huge enthusiasm was witnessed in the Jammu and Ladakh regions where long queues of voters were seen outside polling booths right from the morning when polling began at 7 am.
The areas along the Line of Control (LoC) and international border with POK and Pakistan respectively also witnessed enthusiasm among the electorate. About 15 percent votes were cast in Jammu in the first two hours.
Voters shied from the polling booths in the summer capital of Srinagar where polling for the municipal corporation was being held.
Not a single vote was cast in the Wardumhama locality, while 76 votes were cast in the Hamdania colony and one vote in Bagh-e- Mehtab, Shankerpora, during the first two hours.
Polling was negligible in the Kokernag area of Anantnag in South Kashmir during the first two hours where the highest number of votes were cast in ward number 7 with 49 votes. One vote each was cast in ward numbers 9 and 11 and 6 votes in ward 13.
12 votes were polled in the ward 5 of central Kashmir’s Budgam that went to polls. Budgam district has a total of 72 wards. However, polling is being held only in one ward as 26 wards did not find even a single candidate and in 45 wards candidates won unopposed.
Not a single vote was cast in the early hours in 5 wards of Baramulla district.
Voting is being held in districts of Anantnag (4 wards), Budgam (1), Bandipore (16), Baramulla (15), Jammu (153), Kargil (13), Kupwara (18), Leh (13), Poonch (26), Rajouri (59) and Srinagar (3) in the first of the four phases of urban local bodies elections.
It’s a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress, with major regional political parties — the NC and the PDP — boycotting the election.
The National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have boycotted the elections over the legal challenge to the Constitution’s Article 35A the Supreme Court.
The article accords special rights and privileges to the state’s citizens and bars people from outside Jammu and Kashmir from acquiring any immovable property in the state.
As many as 3,372 candidates have filed their nominations for the four-phased urban local body (ULB) and municipal elections, out of which 192 candidates were elected unopposed, and 2,688 are in fray till the third phase of the polls.
Jammu and Kashmir Congress president Gulam Ahmed Mir who is leading the party’s campaign, had said the Congress had fielded over 440 candidates in the polls and over 100 of them were declared elected uncontested.
The Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) has fielded candidates in all 75 wards of the Jammu Municipal Corporation for the polls.
The second phase of polling will be undertaken on October 10, followed by third phase on October 13 and fourth and final on October 16, an official said.
The counting of the votes will be taken up on October 20, the official said.
There is threat of the militants to the candidates as they and separatists have asked the people to keep way from polls in the past.
Fear of terror groups has pushed the state electoral machinery to maintain secrecy over names of the winning candidates due to security reasons.