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4.2% vote in final phase of ULB polls in Kashmir

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Overall poll percentage in all four phases 35.1%: CEO

Srinagar, Oct 16: The trend of low voter turnout continued during the fourth and final phase of urban local bodies elections with just 4.2 percent of the electorate exercising their franchise in the Valley, Tuesday.

The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) J&K, Shaleen Kabra this evening said that overall 4.2 percent polling was witnessed in the 4th and final phase of Municipal Polls-2018 in Srinagar and Ganderbal today.

Kabra said Ganderbal witnessed 11.3 percent polling in 12 wards were 38 candidates are in the fray. He said Srinagar witnessed 4 percent polling in 24 wards today.

He said the cumulative poll percentage in all the four phases is 35.1 percent.

The counting of votes will be held on 20th October 2018, for which, Kabra said, all arrangements have been put in place.

Polling began at 6 am this morning amidst stringent security arrangements at 308 polling stations in the twin districts of Srinagar and Ganderbal and ended at 4 pm.

Out of 2.42 lakh voters in 24 wards of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, only 9,678 (four percent) turned up at heavily-fortified polling stations, officials said.

In Ganderbal, 10.8 percent of 8,908 voters exercised their franchise.

Eight municipal bodies across six districts - all in the Kashmir Valley – were scheduled to go to polls in the final phase of the elections. However, only two bodies witnessed voting as the six were either won unopposed or no nominations were submitted.

In the fourth phase, 151 candidates were in the fray for 36 wards of the two urban local bodies, the officials said.

For 24 wards of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) with a total electorate of 2,41,043, 113 candidates were in the fray and 295 polling stations were established for the purpose, they said.

Repolling was held at polling station number nine - Bachidarwaza of Makhdoom Sahab (ward number 41) - where five candidates were in the fray with a total electorate of 1,260. Only 262 votes were cast Tuesday.

The officials said massive security arrangements were put in place for the smooth conduct of the polls.

The polls were announced last month but two major political parties -- the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) -- boycotted the elections accusing the Centre of not taking a firm stand on the protection of Article 35-A of the Constitution which is facing a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.

Militants had issued threats to anyone participating in these polls.

The voter turnout in the first three phases of the civic polls in the Valley has been low. While 8.3 percent of the electorate turned up to vote in the 83 wards in the first phase on October 08, the poll percentage fell to an abysmal 3.4 percent in the second phase held on October 10. The third phase of polling for civic bodies in Kashmir on October 13 also witnessed a low turnout of just 3.49 percent.

Eight municipal bodies spanning across six districts - all in Kashmir Valley – were scheduled to go to polls in this phase of the elections.

However, out of the eight, only two bodies witnessed voting, while there is no contest in the rest of the six bodies.

In these six civic bodies – Pattan in Baramulla district of north Kashmir, Pampore, Pulwama and Khrew in Pulwama district in south, Shopian Municipal Committee in Shopian district in south and Dooru Verinag in Anantnag district also in south Kashmir -- no voting was needed as the candidates either won unopposed or no nominations were submitted.

CEO reviews counting arrangements

Srinagar, Oct 16: The Chief Electoral Officer, J&K, Shaleen Kabra today reviewed arrangements put in place for the counting of votes on October 20 (Saturday) in all the districts of the State. The counting will start at 9.00 am.

In a video-conference with the Deputy Commissioners, Kabra while taking comprehensive review of the counting arrangements made in each district, lauded their efforts in ensuring smooth, “free and fair” conduct of urban local body polls across the state, an official press release said.

He complimented the DCs for having made adequate arrangements which resulted in smooth and hassle-free conduct of elections.

Kabra issued necessary guidelines to the DCs regarding counting of votes besides ensuring presence of contestants or their authorized agents inside the counting hall.

Kabra directed DCs to personally monitor the counting and tabulation to avid any confusion. He said the staff has already been fully trained in counting of votes on EVMs.

The Chief Electoral Officer stressed the DCs to gear up for upcoming Panchayat elections.

Zero turnout in Soura ward amid severe clashes

Srinagar, Oct 16 (PTI) Three candidates, an electorate of 11,265 but not a single vote cast through the day. That was the 'zero sum' story of Srinagar Municipal Corporation's Soura ward in the fourth and final phase of elections to Jammu and Kashmir's urban local bodies Tuesday.

Although low voter turnout in Srinagar and many other parts of the Valley has been a hallmark of the civic body elections, this is the first time that no voter turned up in an entire ward, officials said.

Three candidates were in the fray from Soura, about 10 kilometres from the city centre Lal Chowk.

Of the three, including a Kashmiri Pandit contesting on a BJP ticket, one is from Habba Kadal and one from Mujgund areas of the city and were not eligible to vote from Soura. The third is from the area but did not exercise his franchise, the officials said.

The heavily fortified polling station opened at 6 am and was open for voting till 4 pm.

But the booths remained empty through the 10 hours with youths hurling stones at government forces.

There were pitched battles between government forces and protestors in the municipal ward with teargas smoke leaving traces in the air. The protestors began picketing the area even before police was deployed. Stones and other hurdles were placed to block the roads.

Intense clashes rocked the area throughout the day. In the morning youth fought pitched battles with government forces deployments nears the SKIMS’ maternity home at Mian chowk Soura. But as forces used tear-gas and chased them away, youths continued pelting stones from the lanes and bylanes of the area. Clashes continued throughout the day.

There are five other wards in the Srinagar Municipal Corporation -- one went to the polls in the first phase and two each in the second and third phase -- where the voter turnout is less than 10 percent.

Located on the Srinagar-Ladakh highway, Soura is where the state's top tertiary-care hospital, the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, is located.

On the banks of Anchar Lake, the area is also famous for the Aasaar Sharief Jinaab Saahib shrine which houses holy relics.

JRL praises people for boycotting elections

Srinagar, Oct 16: Hurriyat-M chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Tuesday said the Joint resistance Leadership (JRL) commends the people of Kashmir for the “commitment to the cause of self-determination shown by them in a comprehensive boycott” of the final phase of municipal polls.

Taking to Twitter, Mirwaiz said people of Kashmir “have sent a clear message to the Indian State by boycotting the sham elections.”

“JRL deeply appreciates& commends people of #Kashmir for the political maturity& commitment to the cause of self-determination shown by them in a comprehensive boycott of this sham called “election”,ppl have send a clear message to the Indian State #NoElectionOnlySelfDetermination,” Mirwaiz wrote on his twitter handle.

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