Farhat Naik/ Manu Srivatsav

ULB polls: First phase passes off peacefully

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Kashmir gives some respect to JRL, NC, PDP boycott; Jammu, Ladakh reject

In Valley, Kupwara records highest turn out, Bandipora lowest; heavy turnout in Jammu, Ladakh; CEO says, overall poll percentage 56.7

Srinagar

Srinagar/Jammu, Oct 08: Monday evening the authorities in Srinagar heaved a sigh of relief as first phase of the urban local body election in the Valley ended peacefully even though there were a few incidents of stone-pelting at some places.

According to Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) J&K Shaleen Kabra, the overall polling percentage across the State in the 1st phase of Municipal Polls-2018 has been recorded 56.7 percent.

And as expected, the poll percentage in the Valley was not much. In the wake of separatists’ calls for poll boycott and the threats from militant groups as also the National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and CPI(M) boycotting these elections, polling booths in Kashmir Valley recorded a paltry turnout of 8.3 percent.

It is pertinent to mention here that in April 2017, when by-polls were held for Srinagar-Budgam Lok Sabha seat, the polling was abysmal 7.13% turnout, the lowest ever in its history with horrible violence.

However, this time it was different as there were negligible clashes in the two districts and poll percentage also showed some improvement.

But for the authorities, this was perhaps compensated by the Jammu and Ladakh divisions recording over 65 percent of polling.

Polling on Monday was by and large peaceful in the first phase of the four-phase election to urban local bodies.

In Kashmir Valley, Bandipore recorded the lowest turnout at 3.3 percent and Kupwara the highest at 36.6 percent.

With no election rallies taking place before the first-phase polling in 58 wards in Kashmir Valley, the fear of militant groups was evident as many of the booths wore a deserted look and at certain places people tried to hide themselves from the assembled media-persons.

                                       Jammu

In the election to 238 wards in Jammu division, the turnout was recorded at 65 percent. In Ladakh division's Leh and Kargil districts, 55.2 and 78.1 percent of the electorate respectively cast their votes till 4 PM, when the voting ended. Polling began at 7 AM.

Militant groups such as Hizbul Mujahideen had threatened to "throw acid" at candidates and asked people to remain indoors and not cast their ballots. Streets in Kashmir Valley wore deserted look and shops and business establishments were shut.

Two NC workers were gunned down last week, barely two days before elections.

However, there was no poll-related violence reported in any part of the Valley barring a minor incident in which a BJP candidate was caught in stone-pelting.

"Only 7,057 voters of the 84,692 eligible persons turned up to vote in the wards which went to polls (in Kashmir Valley) on Monday. The polling was by and large peaceful," one of the officials said.

The polls to urban local bodies in Jammu and Kashmir will be held in four phases.

Out of the 30,074 voters in three wards of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, 1,862 turned up at heavily-fortified polling stations.

Budgam recorded a turnout of 17 percent, Anantnag 7.3 percent, Baramulla 5.7 percent and Bandipora 3.3 percent, the officials said.

Of the 150 polling stations in Kashmir division, 138 polling stations were categorised as "hypersensitive".

In several wards, especially those in south Kashmir, no candidate filed nomination papers for the polls.

The election authorities also kept the identities of the contesting candidates from the Valley secret due to security reasons, prompting the people to term these polls as "secret elections".

Jammu, which witnessed elections to 238 wards, saw 56.7 percent of polling with 3,32,255 exercising their franchise.

The second phase covering 384 wards is scheduled for October 10, the third covering 207 wards on October 13 and the last phase covering 132 wards on October 16. The counting of votes will be done on October 20.

The last election to the municipal bodies in the state was held in 2005 through secret ballots and the five-year term expired in February, 2010.

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