Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satyapal Malik has said 74% voting in the first of the 9-phase panchayat elections is a clear mandate of the people for strengthening grassroots democracy.

He said it was heartening to note that people turned up in large numbers on Saturday not only in Jammu region but also in Kashmir to exercise their franchise in these elections. “At 64% voting in Kashmir division, the Valley has given thumbs up to strengthening the grassroots democracy,” he said and added that some areas in Kashmir had shown impressive turnout in the given circumstances with Kupwara at 72%, Baramulla at 69%, Bandipora at 55.7%, Budgam at 30% and Srinagar at 21.8%.

The Governor also hailed officials of the State’s Election Department, the District Administrations and the other staff deployed on poll duties for working tirelessly for almost two months now in connection with first the conduct of municipal polls and now the panchayat polls.

He expressed hope that there would be added momentum in the next eight phases of panchayat polls to put a new empowered Panchayati Raj system in place in the state.

He complimented the civil and police administration for ensuring free, fair and peaceful Phase-I of the panchayat polls in the state.