Srinagar, Dec 8: Voting began for the eighth of nine-phased panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday under unprecedented security arrangement to foil any attempt to disrupt the poll process in view of the strike called by separatists in the poll-bound areas.
Voting process was by and large peaceful so far and people are coming out to exercise their democratic right since the polling started at 0800 hrs at 2,633 polling stations across the state-- 550 in Kashmir division and 2,083 in Jammu division.
At most polling stations in Kashmir, voters so far stayed away. However, authorities expressed hope that people will come out as the day progresses. At Narbal on the city outskirts on Srinagar-Gulmarg road, out of ten halqas, voting is being held in only one halqa. However, during the first two hours, no voter had turned up to vote.
Polling will end at 1400 hrs and counting will be taken up in the evening, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) J&K Shaleen Kabra said.
He said 361polling stations have been categorised as hypersensitive in this phase including 171 in Kashmir division and 190 in Jammu division.
The CEO said 6,304 candidates are in the fray for 331 Sarpanch and 2007 Panch seats in Phase-VIII. However, 43 Sarpanchs and 681 Panchs have been elected unopposed in this phase.
He said in the areas going to polls in phase-VIII, an electorate of 5,15,121 are expected to cast their vote in Sarpanch constituencies and 4,19,775 for Panch constituencies. “Photo Voter Slips have been distributed among the voters to inform them of their polling station,” he said.
The CEO said at the end of seven phases of panchayat polls, an overall voter turnout of 73.8 per cent has been recorded across the State, with a poll percentage of 44.4 per cent in the Kashmir division and 83.2 per cent in the Jammu division.
He said results of earlier seven phases have been announced for all these phases by the respective Returning Officers on the same day when polling was held in these phases.
The CEO said orders have been passed in various complaint cases as well as directions of the Courts and wherever necessary notifications, appointing the election schedules, have been issued. “All such orders/notifications are available at website of CEO J&K,” he said.
Mr Kabra said Basic Minimum Facilities (BMF) have been ensured in all the polling stations across the State for Phase-VIII. Photo Voter Slips have been distributed among the voters to inform them of their polling stations.
He said senior government officers have been appointed as General Observers to oversee the smooth, fair and orderly conduct of Panchayat Elections, 2018.
“Also, Expenditure Observers are keeping a watch on the expenditure by the candidates. In addition, for the poll day, Micro Observers have been placed in polling stations, particularly those considered hypersensitive. Besides, the Zonal and Sector Magistrates too have been deployed” he added.
The CEO said Control Rooms have been established in all the districts across the State to respond promptly to any complaints of violation of the Model Code of Conduct as also to disseminate information to the public.
Security arrangements have been made including deployment of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF).
He said the Government has declared holiday on the day of poll in the Panchayat areas going to polls so as to enable the voters to cast their vote. He said special casual leaves shall also be granted to the employees who have to go to other areas to exercise their right to franchise.
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 to do so, he added.
The CEO appealed to the voters to come forward and exercise their right to franchise in order to choose their local self-government to address their needs. (UNI)