SRINAGAR The hype surrounding the election to Urban Local Bodies, held after 13-years, failed to cut ice with the people as only 8.4 per cent of the electorate cast their votes in the first of the 4-phased election in Kashmir Valley.
The government had placed adequate security arrangements as 200 companies of the CRPF and Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police were on duty.
In some places the Army was also present in substantial numbers around the polling booths. In the first phase of the elections, 69 candidates from the 149 wards have been declared winners, uncontested.
The candidates were running away from the media to ensure their names don’t appear anywhere. Voters were not willing to take the risk to be photographed. The candidate contesting in this booth is my relative and it is the only reason I have come to cast my vote. Otherwise I wouldnt have. Who will risk his life for this useless election, says a middle aged person in Sangri area of Baramulla.
The phase-I of the election to Urban Local Bodies, being held after 2005, marked low turnout of 8.34 percent with 7075 people out of 84792 voters casting their ballot in 58 wards, spanned over six districtsKupwara, Bandiopora, Baramulla, Srinagar, Budgam and Anantnag.
According to officials, 16 wards in Bandipora recorded lowest polling percentage of 3.4% followed by 5.1% in Baramulla (15 wards), 6.2% in Srinagar (3 wards), 17% in Budgam (1 ward) and 7% in Anantnag (4 wards). Kupwara district where 18 wards saw the highest turnout of 32.3%, they said.
Regarding Jammu and Kargil, the official said that Rajouri saw the highest 81%, Poonch 73.1%, Jammu 63.8% while Kargil saw the turnout 78.2% and Leh 55.2%.
According to Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) J&K Shaleen Kabra, the overall polling percentage across the State was 56.7 percent.
As per officials, there were 820 polling stations across the State and the polling time started from 7.00 am and continued till 4.00 pm.
While 150 polling stations were designated for voting in Kashmir Division including Kargil and Leh, 670 were set up in Jammu Division.
138 polling stations were categorized as hypersensitive In Kashmir Division while the number of such stations in Jammu was 52 .
While 78 candidates were elected unopposed, 1204 contenders were in the fray for 321 Municipal Wards in Phase-I including 83 in Kashmir division and 238 in Jammu division. The total electorate for Phase-I was 586064.
The government had also declared holiday on the day of poll in the municipal areas going to polls so as to enable the voters to cast their vote. As per standing guidelines, the Central Government offices shall not be closed but the employees who are electors of the poll going wards and desire to exercise their franchise shall be offered reasonable facility- by way of coming late to office, allowed to leave office early .
The Municipal Elections are being held in four phases, covering 79 municipal bodies with an electorate of about 17 lakh. A total of 3372 nominations have been filed for 1145 wards. The next phase of voting is on October 10, followed by third phase on 13 and forth on October 16.
As the mainstream political parties like NC and PDP boycotted elections, the impact was visible on the ground. The two parties boycotted the election after the Centre didnt respond to their plea that it should clear its stand on the Article 35A which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir and debars non-residents of Jammu and Kashmir to purchase land in the state.
In several wards, especially those in south Kashmir, no candidate filed nomination papers for the polls.
The candidates were moved to safe locations and their details were not made public.
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”.
PO suspended; Cop Accused Of Casting Bogus Votes
A Presiding Officer was suspended on Monday for allowing a woman to accompany a voter up to voting compartment in Kaloosa area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district during the municipal elections.
An official said that the presiding officer was suspended for violating the norms.
Deputy Commissioner Bandipora said that the concerned presiding officer has been suspended and polling officer 1 at higher secondary school Kaloosa was appointed as presiding officer of the concerned polling station.
Meanwhile, an independent candidate on Monday accused the Congress party of resorting to bogus voting in Ward No. 14 of Bandipora municipal committee.
Muhammad Akram Wani who is contesting ULB polls from Ward No. 14 of Bandipora municipal committee alleged that some policemen cast their votes early morning.
He alleged that the bogus voters cast votes on the directions of Congress MLA Usman Majeed as his brother Khursheed Ahmad Ganie is contesting from the same ward.
A minor scuffle also took place as the independent candidates raised hue and cry in the polling station.
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