Polling began on Wednesday for the second phase of the four-phased municipal elections in Jammu and Kashmir to seal the fate of 1,029 candidates in fray across the state.
Jammu voters started queuing up outside poll booths in six districts while they came in only ones and twos in seven districts of the Kashmir Valley for the municipal polls.
Voting for the second phase began at 6 a.m. and will end at 7 p.m. amid stringent security arrangements in the 544 polling stations set up in Kathua, Udhampur, Kishtwar, Reasi, Doda and Ramban districts of Jammu region, and Anantnag, Kupwara, Srinagar, Baramulla, Bandipora, Badgam and Kulgam districts in the valley, a poll official said.
The officials said 1,029 candidates – 881 in Jammu division and 148 in Kashmir division – are in the fray for 263 municipal wards, including 49 in Kashmir and 214 in Jammu.
A total of 65 candidates – 61 of them from Kashmir valley – have already won the polls uncontested, while in 56 wards all in the valley – no nomination was received, so no polling is taking place in those places, they said.
As many as 270 polling stations have been designated for voting in Kashmir Division and 274 in Jammu Division, they added.
The officials said the total electorate in these wards is 346,980 – 128,104 in Jammu Division belonging to 18 Municipal bodies and 218,876 in Kashmir Division of five Municipal bodies.
They said massive security arrangements have been put in place to ensure smooth conduct of the polls.
Mainstream political parties — the National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, CPI-M, Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN) and Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) — have boycotted the elections.
The elections, covering 79 municipal bodies with an electorate of about 17 lakh, are being held in four phases. A total of 3,372 nominations have been filed for 1,145 wards. The next phases will take place on October 13 and 16.
The government has declared holiday on the day of poll in the municipal areas concerned to enable voters cast their vote.
Separatists have called for a protest shutdown in areas where voting is scheduled in the valley. Militants have issued threats to contesting candidates and asked voters to keep away from the poll process.
Total electorate for Wednesday’s poll is 3,46,980 of whom 1,28,104 are in Jammu division and 2,18,876 in the valley.
“Photo Voter Slips were distributed among the voters to inform them of their polling station. Senior government officers have been appointed as General Observers to oversee that the polls are smooth, fair and in order.
“Expenditure Observers are also keeping a watch on the expenditure by the candidates. In addition, Micro Observers have been deployed in polling stations, particularly those considered sensitive or hypersensitive,” the poll official said.
The third phase of the municipal polls would be held on October 13 while the last phase on October 16. Counting of votes would take place on October 20.
(With inputs from agencies)