The fourth and final phase of the urban local body elections began in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday amid tight security, reported Greater Kashmir. The polling began at 6 am and ended at 4 pm.
Heavy security was put in place near the 308 polling stations across Srinagar and Ganderbal. Security personnel set up check points across the regions where polling is taking place. High-speed mobile internet services were suspended in southern and central Kashmir, including in Srinagar, reported ANI.
As many as 156 candidates are in the fray for 37 wards in two urban local bodies – Ganderbal Municipal Committee and Srinagar Municipal Corporation. The 24 wards of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation recorded only 4% of voting, PTI reported, quoting Election Commission officials. In Srinagar Municipal Corporation’s Soura ward, not a single vote was cast. In Ganderbal, 10.8% of 8,908 voters cast their ballots.
Earlier in the day, Ganderbal Senior Superintendent of Police K Poswal said turnout has been good. “I expect that as weather clears, turnout will be better,” he had told ANI. “If someone attempts stone pelting, we’ll take strict action. There are more than 20 CAPF [Central Armed Police Forces] [and] police jawans at each polling station. Mobile teams are also deployed.”
Polling in the final phase was earlier scheduled to take place in 132 wards in eight municipal bodies across six districts, all in Kashmir Valley. However, there were no or only one candidate in several wards, which reduced the number of wards going to polls to 37. There will be no election for municipal committees of Pattan, Pampore, Khrew, Pulwama, Shopian and Dooru-Verinag, reported Rising Kashmir.
Except Pattan, all the other urban local bodies are in South Kashmir, which has seen a rise in militancy-related incidents and civilian protests following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in 2016.
Re-polling is also under way at polling station No. 9 at Bachidarwaza (ward number 41) in Srinagar where five candidates are in the fray with a total electorate of 1,260, reported PTI.
Meanwhile, a strike called by separatists against the local body polls meant that shops, fuel stations and other business establishments remained closed in Ganderbal and Srinagar on Tuesday, PTI reported. Unidentified officials said public transport did not ply, though a few private vehicles were seen on the streets. The state government has declared a holiday in poll-bound areas.
The Joint Resistance Leadership comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik had on October 4 called for a boycott of the elections and shutdown in poll-bound areas. The National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party boycotted the elections over the Centre’s stand on the Article 35A of the Indian Constitution.
In the last three phases, the voter turnout in Kashmir Valley was low – 8.2% voting in the first phase, 3.4% in the second, and 3.5% during the third phase. Across the state, voter turnout during the first phase was 56.7%, and the second phase just 30%. Srinagar and southern Kashmir towns recorded a dismal voter turnout, while voting was high in Kupwara, Handwara, Sumbal and Uri – all in northern Kashmir.