Press Trust of india

ULB polls to see direct contest between BJP, Cong as NC, PDP boycott

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Jammu, Oct 05:  The upcoming urban local body and municipal polls in Jammu and Kashmir will see a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress, with major regional political parties -- the NC and the PDP -- boycotting the election.

The polls are scheduled to begin from October 08.

The National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have boycotted the elections over the legal challenge to the Constitution's Article 35-A in 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 were in fray till the third phase of the polls.

Friday was the last day of withdrawal of nomination. There are 8, 16,97,291 voters in the 1,145 wards of the state.

Despite threats from militants and poll boycott by the NC and PDP, as many as 982 candidates have filed their nomination and 179 were declared elected uncontested from the Kashmir region.

The Congress and the BJP, the candidates of which are in the thick of campaigning, particularly in the Jammu region, said the contest would be a direct one between the two national parties.

"It is a direct contest between the BJP and us as the NC and the PDP have kept away from the democratic exercise. Our candidates are campaigning and we are hopeful of a majority victory," Jammu and Kashmir Congress president Gulam Ahmed Mir said.

Mir, who is leading the party's campaign, said the Congress had fielded over 440 candidates in the polls and over 100 of them were declared elected uncontested.

"Besides, development and civic issues, our party is asking people to keep the BJP, which is a communal party, away from the ruling setup of J&K and to safeguard special status of the state," he said.

The BJP has failed on the security and development fronts, and "we will also bring up the issue of Article 35-A", the Congress's state unit said.

BJP general secretary (Organisation), who is leading the party in Kashmir, also said it is a direct contest between the two national parties as the NC and the PDP are boycotting the polls.

"We have field over 850 candidates and several of our candidates have won uncontested, mostly in Kashmir," Koul said.

The party has promised in its manifesto proper sanitation, drainage and garbage handling, and tackling mosquito menace among others, he said.

Recreational clubs will be opened in every ward for senior citizens and getting building permission for commercial and residential areas will be made hassle-free, he said.

The Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) has fielded candidates in all 75 wards of the Jammu Municipal Corporation for the polls.

Harsh Dev Singh, chairman, JKNPP, said they will fight against the BJP and the Congress, and expose their failures.

He accused the two national parties of "marginalising" the Jammu region.

"The BJP and the Congress can't be allowed to go unchallenged; the Panthers party have put up a brave front against the opportunist leaders and all political parties which have betrayed Jammu. We will defeat them", Singh said.

Campaigning, including door-to-door campaign, ward meetings and road shows, has picked up pace in state's the Jammu region, particularly in Jammu, as the first phase of the polls is scheduled from October 08.

Hoarding have been put up across the Jammu region and vehicles fitted with public address systems and banners have been deployed by parties to garner support. Candidates are also distributing pamphlets to tell voters about their party manifestoes.

Out of total 1,145 wards of municipality and local bodies, 90 wards have been reserved for scheduled castes and 38 for scheduled tribes, a poll official said.

He said 322 wards have been reserved for women belonging to the open category, he said.

The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has highest number of 6,63,775 electors with 74 wards, he said.

The first phase of polling will be undertaken on October 08, followed by second phase on October 10, third on October 13 and fourth and final on October 16, the official said.

The counting of the votes will be taken up on October 20, he 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 militant groups has pushed the state electoral machinery to maintain secrecy over names of the winning candidates due to security reasons.

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