The second phase of panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday recorded 71.1% turnout, PTI reported. “An overwhelming 80.4% polling was witnessed in Jammu division and 52.2% in Kashmir division,” said Chief Electoral Officer Shaleen Kabra.

Udhampur district in Jammu recorded the highest turnout of 83.9%, while Anantnag district in South Kashmir recorded the lowest at 1%. In Kashmir, Kupwara district topped with 69.7% polling, followed by Kargil at 66.5% and Bandipora and Leh, which recorded 66.3% turnout. In Ganderbal, 27.4% of the electorate voted while in Baramulla the figure was 11.2%, Kabra added.

In the first phase held on November 17, around 75% voters had participated. Seven more phases will be held until December 11. The elections will be held in eight blocksKalaroos, Machil and Rajwar in Kupwara district, Ganstan and Nowgam in Bandipora district, Wagoora in Baramulla district, Kangan in Ganderbal district, and Anantnag block.

The election panel set up 2,179 polling stations, of which 828 are in Kashmir and 1,351 in the Jammu division, Greater Kashmir reported. At least 601 of these stations were categorised as hypersensitive, including 490 in Kashmir division and 111 in Jammu.

Kabra said 4,014 candidates are in the fray for 281 sarpanch and 1,286 panch seats in the second phase with 90 sarpanches and 1,069 panches having already been elected unopposed.

The separatist group Joint Resistance Leadership had called for a complete shutdown in Kalaroos, Machil, Rajwar, Ganstan, Nowgam, Sangrama, Wagoora, Kangan, Rathsun and Bijbehara areas to protest against the “sham panchayat elections thrust on them by the authoritarian state”.

The separatists had asked people to “demonstrate their total rejection and disregard of this futile exercise by staying away and boycotting it completely”.

The National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) boycotted the elections over the lack of clarity on Article 35A of the Constitution, which grants special rights and privileges to the state’s citizens. The three parties did not participate in last month’s urban local body elections as well.