SRINAGAR Over 350 candidates are in fray in the penultimate phase of the urban local bodies polls in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday. The four-phase elections began on October 8 and will end on October 16.
In the first two phases polls, a majority of people stayed away from polling booths in Kashmir Valley for where the turnout was at 8.3 per cent only in first phase while phase-II witnessed meager 3.4 percent turnout.
Polling in both the phases was by and large peaceful in the four-phase election to urban local bodies, which has been boycotted by two main regional parties – the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Officials said on Friday that security arrangements have been put in place for smooth conduct of the their phase of elections which will take place from 6 am to 4 pm.
Of the 44 wards going to polls on Saturday, 20 fall in Srinagar city’s downtown area, where the voter turnout has been generally low since the eruption of militancy in the state in 1989.
The wards in downtown city going to polls are Khanqah-e-Mualla, Maharajgunj, Jamia Masjid, Makhdoom Sahib, Khwaja Bazaar, Aqilmir Khanyar, Rozabal, Daulatabad, Islamyarbal, Nawab Bazaar, Nawa Kadal, Safakadal, Rathpora, Edigah, Palpora and Tarabal.
Ten other wards in the civil lines area of the city, where polling will be held on Saturday, are Lal Chowk, Rajbagh, Ikhrajpora, Mehjoor Nagar, Natipora, Chanapora, Budshah Nagar, Baghat Barzulla, Hyderpora and Rawalpora.
The voter turnout, however, is expected to be high in 13 wards in the Uri area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, which has traditionally been a high polling area. A similar trend might be seen in nine wards in the Mattan area of Anantnag district, which has a significant Kashmiri migrant population.
Although 207 wards in the state were scheduled to go to polls in the third phase, polling will be held only in 96 wards including 44 in the Valley.
While results for 49 wards in the Valley were declared uncontested at the completion of the nomination process on 3 October, there were no nominations filed for 58 wards — mostly falling in Pulwama and Anantnag district of south Kashmir.
The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), J&K, Shaleen Kabra said 365 candidates are in the fray for 96 wards of 8 Urban Local Bodies.
The CEO said that Basic Minimum Facilities (BMF) have been ensured in all the polling stations across the State for voting. He said Photo Voter Slips have already been distributed among the voters to inform them of their polling station.
Kabra said senior government officers have been appointed as General Observers to oversee the smooth, fair and orderly conduct of polls. Expenditure Observers are also keeping a watch on the expenditure by the candidates, he said and added that for the poll day Micro Observers have been deployed in polling stations, particularly those considered sensitive/ hypersensitive.
Besides, the Zonal and Sector Magistrates have been deployed to ensure smooth conduct of polls as well as monitoring the entire process, CEO said and added that the Deputy Commissioners are undertaking Videography of all critical events related to the poll process.
Kabra said Control Rooms have been established in all the Municipal Bodies across the State to respond promptly to any complaints of violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) as also to disseminate information to the public. He said adequate security arrangements have been made for smooth conduct of polling across the State.
He said the government has 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. He said 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 / short absence.
The Municipal Elections are being held in four phases, covering 79 municipal bodies with an electorate of about 17 lakh electors. A total of 3372 nominations have been filed for 1145 wards.
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