Srinagar, Oct 8: Voting began in the first of the four phase Municipal elections in the eight districts of the Kashmir division, including Leh and Kargil, on Monday.
Polling commenced in 321 wards at 7 am in the backdrop of unprecedented security arrangements following general strike called by separatists and apprehension of militant attempt to disrupt the process. The polling began on a dull note as hardly any voting was visible during the first hour in Kashmir valley, where polling will be held in 57 Municipal Committee and Municipal Corporation spread over six districts, including in summer capital, Srinagar.
However, the situation in Jammu and Ladakh region was entirely different as voters were seen moving towards polling booths to exercise their democratic right.
Thousands of security forces and state police personnel, wearing bullet proof jackets and headgear, were deployed to provide safe and secure environment to voters to cast their votes.
Interestingly there was absolutely no campaigning by candidates who remained confined to secure zones after the killing of two workers of National Conference (NC) in broad day light in the old city at Karfali Mohalla Habba Kadal. The names of candidates were also kept secret for security reasons.
Polling started in all the 150 polling stations spread over eight districts of Srinagar, Baramulla, Kupwara, Anantnag, Bandipora and Badgam in Kashmir valley and Leh and Kargil in Ladakh region where the fate of 204 candidates will be decided in 83 wards.
Out of 74 wards of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), polling in the first phase was being held in three wards of Humhama, Bagh-e-Mehtab and Hamdaniya Colony Bemina, where eight candidates are in the fray. The authorities had set up 35 polling stations for the voters. Not a single candidate had filed nomination in one ward of the SMC. There are 310 candidates contesting from 73 of SMC.
The NC and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) besides Communist Party of India (M) have stayed away from the polls on the issue of Article 35 A as the political parties wanted centre and state to clear their stand on the issue. Congress initially announced not to contest the polls but later took a U-turn and decided to field candidates. However, Governor Satya Pal Malik questioned NC and PDP boycott and said when both the parties took part in Kargil Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Kargil the issue of Article 35 A was there. These parties are misleading people and trying to take political mileage in Assembly elections.
Polling started on a very dull note in three wards of SMC. However, polling has picked up as the day progressed in Hamdania colony where about 100 votes were polled during the first 90 minutes. People could still be seen arriving at polling station. However, voters were not allowing videographers and photographers to take their photos for security reasons.
But, the situation in Humhama was entirely different as only one vote was polled during the first one hour where a BJP candidate had cast his vote.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), J&K, Shaleen Kabra said that in the first phase of Municipal Polls-2018 voting will take place at 820 polling stations across the State on Monday. The polling time, he said will be from 0700 hrs to 1600 hrs.
He said 150 polling stations have been designated for voting in Kashmir Division and 670 in Jammu Division. “In Kashmir Division 138 polling stations have been categorized as hypersensitive while in Jammu Division 52 polling stations have been categorised hypersensitive,” he said and added that for the Phase-I, 78 candidates have already been elected unopposed. (UNI)